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Showing posts from October, 2016

Washington DC part 1: What schools can learn from America

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Unless you’re in a chemically induced coma it is impossible not to see how America creates itself constantly. It does it so, so habitually that I imagine most of the time it doesn't even know it’s doing it. People have often commented on the palpable and very visible culture of civic responsibility that exists in America, certainly compared to, say the UK. Participation, citizenship, are very live, livid concepts.

One one hand this is unremarkable considering the circumstances of its birth. A former colony that had to pull itself out of the womb, bite the umbilica and tie its own knot, you can understand how that violence, that conscious act of rebellion and self-discovery leads to an equally conscious ambition to celebrate its identity. America does democracy like Apple does iPhones: better than anyone else. The UK may enjoy the Mother of Parliaments, but come to Washington and see Parliament 2.0. It’s impossible not to be a little in awe of this re-invented Leviathan, this cust…

It's your time you're wasting; why schools should stop drowning teachers in marking

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One does not simply walk into Mordor, and one does not simply pop into IKEA for a packet of napkins and an Ottoman. The Scandinavian elves play a voodoo on your flimsy aspirations of frugality, and by the time you're supping on a hot dog in the car park of Valhalla you're dragging a caravan of Billy bookcases, tea candles, picture frames and a rug that doubles as a shoe tidy. And you forgot the Ottoman.
We've all done it; started out with one plan and ended up with another. That's fine when Plan B is also something you want (cf: Professor Mickey Flanagan's seminal  'Out/ OUT-out theory of organic incremental decision decay' for details). But not if you put your hand in your pocket for a Swiss knife and pull out a Swiss roll. And not if you planned on teaching kids, but ended up doing something else that looked a bit like teaching, but wasn't really.

I was reminded of this recently when I heard of a colleague's experience in a struggling school in t…

Sympathy for the Devil: my day at Michaela

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A couple of days ago I was chatting to a builder friend. He had a client who worried him. ‘Thinks that people are breaking into his house and moving things,’ he told me. ‘Showed me a tiny crack under the stairs. ‘That was them,’ he told me. ‘They drilled into that.’ But when I said that no drill could reach down there, he said, ‘Ah but they got special drills.’ When I asks them how they got into the house, he said, ‘They’ve got a master key.’’ And so on and so on. This guy never left the house, and no matter how you disputed his theories, he always had an answer. His beliefs were evidence proof. Nothing you could say would change his mind, and any evidence for against the premise would be enlisted as further proof. 
Which brings me nicely to the Michaela Community School in Wembley, where I spent a day this week once again boggling at their systems, their kids, and its buccaneer warlord, Katherine Birbalsingh, who makes Javert seem weak willed and forgiving. The title of this blog post…