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It's still a wonderful job- because teaching saved me

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It’s still a wonderful job

Nb: this is an edited version of a previously published post
I usually have a Christmas ritual: I republish a post I wrote a few years ago called ‘It’s a wonderful job.’ It was a Winter rumination about why teaching was still one of the best jobs you could do, despite the aggro and the paperwork and rats carrying lasers*. It was a sentimental meditation, me on my rocking chair smoking a pipe and chuckling as I read Christmas cards from cherubic children. 
Love, Actually says at Christmas you have to tell the truth. This year it would feel insincere to regurgitate so straightforward a love letter to the profession- mainly because since September last year I’m not teaching. Four years ago I started researchED as a kitchen table project, and I ran it on top of full time teaching for 18 months until the banjo string of my psyche threatened to snap. So I went part time. researchED grew and grew, more and more conferences in more and more countries and continents, b…

Evidence-based education is dead- long live evidence-informed education: Thoughts on Dylan Wiliam

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The following blog post was first featuredon the TES website in April 2015. Unfortunately due to a technical problem, it didn't survive an update. I've tracked and captured it using a site that archives web page snapshots, in response to several requests from people who wanted to link to it in their own writing. I present it here, exactly as it was, so please bear in mind the context of the time in which it was written.


Tom Evidence-based education is dead — long live evidence-informed education: Thoughts on Dylan Wiliam2
2 Created by: 11-4-2015 • 13:59

Dylan Wiliam, high priest of black boxes and emeritus professor at the Institute of Education, says in this week’s TES that teaching cannot, will never be a research-based, or research-led profession. And he’s absolutely right.
Given that he’s the one of the handful of educational researchers that many teachers could name, and I happen to run researchED, education’s grooviest new hipster/nerd movement, this may appear …

Better behaviour benefits everyone. Why inclusion is good for all

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Last March the DfE published my behaviour report ‘Creating a Culture’ in which I outlined some of the strategies most commonly found to be effective by schools that had managed to achieve fantastic behaviour despite difficult circumstances.

There were many common themes (because all students are humans, with human capacities, appetites and reactions) many different ways these themes were achieved (because context matters, and few things in human behaviour are universal). Detail matters.

One of the most commonly encountered strategies was the use of well-described routines, defined, embedded and maintained by an alert and consistent staff, and self-sustained by the community of students. For routines to work, they have to be consistent. There need to be understood exceptions, and exceptions need to be exceptional, rational and coherent with the culture. Laws are laws but without room for wise interpretation they become prisons rather than climbing frames.

Elitist or Inclusive?

One of t…

Educating Greater Manchester 2: Schools and other families

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There’s a weird thing I hear sometimes from staff in a school. They say, ‘Oh the School should do x,’ or they’ll say in front of a student, ‘This school is rubbish.’ Students have mentioned to me how odd this sounds- as far as they're concerned the teacher IS the school, or a cell in it at least. When you hear this kind of comment, you know that the school identity is fractured.

I feel a similar way when schools talk about ‘the community’ as if they were some quarantined island, a geosphere hovering above the neighbourhoods. The school student body is overwhelmingly built from the geography of its postcode. The school is part of the community. It can try to put up a drawbridge, but it gets stormed every minute they’re open.

It’s easy to make the mistake that a school is like a supermarket where the students visit, pick up a bag of trigonometry, and leave. But it’s also an alternate dimension in their lives, that intersects messily with home and friends. And they overlap in turn, …

Educating Manchester 1: Loving the alien

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Every successful series has a problem: carry on until everyone hates you  (see: 24), or leave them panting (see: Mad Men).  Remember Happy Days, the once-world-conquering period sitcom that outstayed its welcome, and desperate to keep feeding laxatives to the goose with the golden eggs, wrote the cast into new, odd narratives. Magical midget mojo Love God The Fonz memorably ended up water skiing over a shark, in scenes as far removed from his character's core as Freddy Krueger baking cupcakes in Justin’s House. The phrase ‘jumped the shark’ was born, and has not, as yet, jumped the shark itself.

So, has the Educating [insert geographical locale] series jumped the shark? Not yet, if this season's opener is anything to go by. Previous series had been entertaining, often moving, but there was a sense that after their spectacular Essex opening act featuring teacher demi gods like the Buddha of empathy Vic Goddard and Stephen Drew, shoeless standards Samurai, subsequent seasons w…

False profits, and why representation matters at researchED

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I think it’s important, once in a while, to write about what researchED stands for.  It’s important to continually define ourselves, in order not to be misrepresented or misunderstood. Recently some people have asked me where researchED stands on a number of issues, and I am glad to do so.

One of these is representation at conferences. It shouldn't need saying that conferences should represent the communities they serve; but then, many things that shouldn't need saying do need saying, and if we take them for granted, others will create new, bleaker narratives.

So, to be carved in the side of the wall:

researchED welcomes submissions from all people regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, or gender. We particularly welcome submissions from under-represented peoples or groups, considering all such submissions equally. In order to redress historical and cultural misrepresentation, I would urge anyone reading this to encourage any members of underrepresented groups who wish to, to sen…

Terra Australis: researchED Melbourne 2017

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Terra Australis

Australia is an extraordinary place to come, especially if you’re British. The mixture of instant familiarity (driving on the left as all civilised peoples do, fried breakfasts, Cockney phonics buried inside carefree New World idiom) and the novel (dim sum next to baked beans, a menagerie of animals apparently constructed by God for a dare) creates an uncanny valley. Like you woke up in an alternate timeline where Britain was at once sunny, healthy and positive.
Nowhere I this demonstrated more clearly than in that totem of Terra Australis, the humble Tim Tam. I can summarise it in two words: Aussie Penguin (the biscuit, not the improbable saviours of zoos’ balance sheets). I already have orders from three separate people in the UK for boxes of them, like Antipodean contraband). But it’s a Penguin with an x factor I can’t quite name. A twist of vanilla perhaps, like someone sent a Penguin through a teleporter with a 99. And it is very delicious, an Umpty Candy for our…