Deconstructing My Own Bad Ideas

So, yes, I get it, that writing a blog is supposed to be about reflection and learning and thinking through your mistakes. Why is it, then, when I read over the four years of posts I’ve somehow managed to collate, that I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve written some real stinkers? How’s about that for an opening? Bear with me; I get there in the end. Reading through the archives does indeed make me wonder what I was thinking at the time but I do see the point. Sometimes learning something and deconstructing that learning is much more useful.

Take, for example, name generators. I’ve a draft post of something I wrote about lollipop sticks and those ‘fruit machine’ style online things that whizz through pupils’ names. I tried them; both, in fact, and after Dylan Wiliam’s TV show the other year, just about every teacher I know started using them at the same time. By the time we got to period six on the first day the kids were sick of the sight of them. They were, mostly, ditched very soon after but served a purpose. My classes learned very quickly that they would no longer be allowed to drift and disappear. The lollipop sticks quickly helped me develop a culture where everyone knew that they could be asked at any point. I didn’t need them any more.

Class Dojo was another one. I wrote this post about my experience, explaining that I was criticising my use of it rather than the software itself. Pupils get points for various classroom tasks, including behaviour if you want it, and they are visually presented on whiteboard or such like. Again, and I’m quite willing to confess that I used it to promote good behaviour for a while and that others may use it more effectively than me, I quickly realised that it told me nothing. The good kids got lots of points, those well-behaved soon gave up caring. Nothing beats the ability to develop trusting and respectful relationships and a strongly adhered to code of conduct to promote a positive learning environment. No computer programme will give you that.

I’ve also just deleted a post about my wonderful wall displays from about three years ago, in which I describe the valuable learning being displayed on poster paper and glitter type stuff. If you think about it, wall displays are only ever effective if they are noticed and read and very often they lose their effect very, very quickly. I still display pupils’ work, both good and bad, but I have limited space so try to ensure it changes very regularly and that I leave spaces blank rather than put up colourful rubbish. See this post on Feedback Gallery. Use the space you have effectively as long as you find out what is most effective.

Finally, and only because I’ve observed a lot of lessons which still waste more time than necessary on this, I completely disagree with myself about writing Learning Intentions on the board. What’s been really useful about this unnecessary distraction is that I’m more and more focused on what I want my pupils to learn every day and make it clear to them throughout lessons. I’m not sure of the value of writing them out as sometimes they change depending on the rhythm of the lesson. But it has been hugely important in reiterating the learning.

Writing a blog can be embarrassing at times; you necessarily have to write about vulnerabilities if is to be of any use, I think. However, I realise how fortunate I am to have a written record of my thinking over the last four years. It has made me better than yesterday, for the most part.

10 thoughts on “Deconstructing My Own Bad Ideas

  1. I like the comment in Mike Bassey’s book on the tedium of placing too much emphasis on Learning Intentions:

    “tell them what you’re going to tell them then tell them then tell them what you’ve told them”.

    Have grappled myself with LIs for a couple of years. Tried SOLO, the classic beginning and end of powerpoint, etc. Came to the conclusion they need to be referred to throughout lessons to be effective. Wasn’t prepared though to waste time having pupils copy them into jotters or to waste paper by dishing them out.

    Ended up getting some adhesive blackboards and stuck them on the walls at the front of the room, one for each class. I write the learning intentions on them for each sub-topic and they end up being altered every week or so. As a result, they are quite broad LIs, but I’ve found this way the most satisfactory.

  2. Totally agree with all your points except the lollipop sticks. Film your lesson using them and then another lesson not using them. It’s not just that they know that you’ll come to them. It’s also that you will get a much better feel of what the class don’t know. That’s when you start earning your money.

  3. Good to read such honest reflections, Kenny – but I do think we’re sometimes too tough on ourselves! We try things, learn from the experience and sometimes move on. We change our minds. New ideas come along and sometimes strategies we used to believe in are discredited and we have to rethink. It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry, as my grandmother was fond of saying.

    I remember when many of us tried brain gym, when we believed in left brain/right brain dominant thinking and when we got excited about whether learners were predominantly visual, auditory or kinaesthetic. It seemed to make good sense. ALL these initiatives helped us to think more, and talk more, about how pupils learn and how we can best reach them, and that seems to me a good thing – even if at a later point we discovered strategies we used perhaps wouldn’t help us to achieved what we hoped they would.

    So congratulate yourself on your learning and the deconstruction of your learning – and don’t feel at all embarrassed!

  4. I think you’re being a little harsh on yourself! Nobody has the right answers first time and if there was a perfect solution to education then the person who discovered it would be very rich (and some people who believe they’ve arrived at the perfect solution are making themselves rich despite probably being wrong).

    We all have phases of championing pedagogical practice at times when it might be spurious. The fact that we can reflect back on our mistakes and improve things in the future is the difference between decent teachers and great ones.

    Keep up the good work.

  5. Pingback: Edssential » Deconstructing My Own Bad Ideas

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s