On My Bedside Table – March 2012

Last year I set up an educational reading wiki primarily for the purpose of sharing the thoughts and ideas I was developing as I read more and more learning based texts. I hoped to share those thoughts with like-minded educators who could argue and debate some of the important issues about which I was reading. However, while loads of people expressed an interest and, indeed, signed up, the reality of the teacher’s life meant that interaction with the wiki was virtually non-existent. People were just too busy to make it a priority. It sort of withered on the vine.

So, that brings me here. I still want to share my thoughts on my reading so will do so in a series of blog posts.

I’ve had Will Ryan’s ‘Inspirational Leaders, Inspirational Teachers’ for a while. The reviews were good but I hadn’t really expected the effect it would have on me. Ryan knows what he’s talking. Inspiration is the key word as he describes both what it means to be inspirational in the classroom as well as a head of school.
When I read educational books like this I try to stick to the same routines. I use a highlighter as I work my way through each chapter, taking care to ensure that anything I highlight will be useful to me later. Afterwards I will go back through the book and write out each highlighted passage into a small A5 ring binded notebook. That might seem overly burdensome but it does allow me to reflect on any points I highlighted on first reading.
Looking back through the many notes I took on Will Ryan’s book brought me to two passages in particular. In the light of the current debates on implementation of Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland, Ryan makes the assertion that:
‘Schools should create a curriculum based around powerful, memorable and well-structured learning opportunities that hook children into learning for the rest of their lives.’ page 32
To me this sums up our new curriculum as well as anything. Despite the quagmire of examination debate, at the heart there is a push towards greater real learning experiences for children. We are talking about learning and teaching more than I’ve ever known in my career and I see and hear of great things happening all the time. ‘Hooking’ children into learning must surely be one of the main aims of any education system.  The Scottish Curriculum is providing greater opportunities to do just that.
Will Ryan provides practical ideas with great real life anecdotes from teachers who inspire in their schools. He places children at the care of the schooling process and what a refreshing read it is. He may, perhaps, be preaching to he converted as many of the people who need to read this book probably won’t but it is an essential read for teachers of any subject and leaders of any school.
‘Children will be totally absorbed in rich learning experiences that are carefully planned to fulfil a range of learning objectives, some of which could be academic and others are based on the skills and attitudes young people will need to pass successfully through life.’ page 229
A vision of the new curriculum in action? I think so.
Next on my list.
The Game of School: Why we all play it, How it hurts kids, and what it will take to change it. By Robert L. Fried

The Connected Educator by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall

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