The Ecosystem of Bullying

Education Week Article on Bullying – Link

Here’s a really interesting article looking at the different approaches adopted to deal with issues of bullying in schools (use the link above).

Key conclusions that I draw from the article;
a) You can’t generalise about bullying so there is no ‘one right way’ for dealing with it.
b) Solutions need to involve all the stakeholders and actors, including bystanders and the role they play through their passive acquiescence.
c) The adults in schools cannot deny the role they play, consciously or unconsciously in contributing to bullying, or at least creating a climate in which it can exist.
d) Invariably the adults in schools must acknowledge that they under-estimate the extent to which bullying is present inb the school’s culture.
e) In places where bullying comes to light the solutions have to be based on both responding to the existing situation and prevention measures for the longer term,
f) Prevention will always be better than cure. Schools should have proactive approaches towards prevention all the time – not wait until they have a problem.
g) The best kind of prevention is broad based, focussing on the building of sound personal identity, strength of character and self-belief (see earlier article on Franklin Covey’s ‘Leader in Me’ Programme.

Every case of bullying however allegedly ‘minor’ is a tragedy and a failure. Schools cannot allow complacency or ‘other priorities’ to take their attention away from what’s important. Every child has the right to learn and grow up in an environment where they can feel safe and supported to fulfill their potential. It’s a tall order, but the target has to be nothing less.

What’s Hot in Tech for Education

Here’s an interesting article identifying the 6 ‘hot’ technologies and practices that are going to be making the biggest difference in education worldwide.

Curriki Link

Two things excite me most about this list;

1) Open content offers a real and genuine opportunity to ‘democratize’ education worldwide, with the best of content from the best teachers being available to all – anywhere, any time. The learner has never been more empowered. I would like to see more Indian teachers have the confidence and ‘community’ mindedness to join in with contributing to open content, not just being passive users of what others have developed. I think in doing so their content would become better, as well.
2) Being relatively less burdened with legacy hardware and software I believe Indian education should be able to benefit disproportionately from these new technologies. The use of mobile telephony is potentially really exciting and I’ve had some fascinating discussions with people at a couple of conferences over the last year or so. If there’s one network in India which is reasonably in place today, it’s the mobile telephony network. 3G will take these opportunities to a further level. The opportunity to directly support large numbers of learners, even in remote rural areas, supplementing occasional face to face support from a tutor offers interesting possibilities.

A Recipe for Unhappiness

I loved this story, so couldn’t resist sharing. Scientific proof that all those people who spend half their lives trying to find out what other people earn are doing themselves no favours.

BBC Article

So, the simple answer for all; set your own goals, live your own life 110% and don’t worry an iota about what others have got going on. Works for me!!

Great Minds Need Great Bodies

Bit by bit, country by country, people are waking up to the damage that junk foods do in our children’s lives. However, I find it an interesting reflection on the culture of the modern age that when it comes to keeping children safe, schools and educators are held to a higher duty of care than families and parents!

Everyone applauds when schools and government pass rules such as those just brought in throughout Mexico:

Guardian Article re Mexican Schools

However, this has a negative side-effect. If the parents continue to pamper their children’s misguided desire for such products that causes millions of children to switch further off from school, believing that this is further evidence that schools are populated by adults who don’t listen to their desires and force their will on them.

Also, such government legislation is really not completely honest. They, like we, know that the real culprit is the vast amount spent to advertise these unhealthy foods directly at children. If that doesn’t get reined in, the children still want, now they can’t get at school, but they still get at home as their parents buy popularity with their children and try to be ‘the good guys’. Result – children won’t get any healthier, childhood obesity will continue through the world like a rampant plague and the food lobby will get their fat commissions for keeping the gravy boat flowing freely.

I am always genuinely worried, and frequently share with colleagues my concerns that as educators we will have completely failed if the long term implication is that we develop some of the greatest minds, but those minds fail to fulfill their potential because the vessels (the bodies) in which they are carried fail and break down when those children reach their thirties.

For our own school, with this in mind, we are working on a physical wellness policy that will lead to implementation of practices associated with all aspects of bodily health for all members of the school community. It will cover curriculum aspects of what children are taught about food and how, physical education (not just sport) for all and diet and nutrition. ‘Whole child’ education requires nothing less of us.

Human Rights & Wrongs

Those of us who work in education have to, more than people in most other professions, think about the future – not just tomorrow, but years and even decades to come – the world in which our children will live their lives.

Sometimes I feel I really want to look on that future with masses of hope. To look for a future in which technological progress will have relieved many of the challenges and burdens in man’s life, provided solutions to some of the planet’s challenges and enabled a bigger proportion of humanity to strive towards self-actualization.

The Twentieth Century was undoubtedly one of many challenges. Whilst there was vast technology progress there was the undoubtedly ugly side in which man revealed in ways more stark than ever before his ability for cruelty and ‘inhumanity’ almost beyond imagining. When i was a child I was growing up in a world that was still coming to terms with the fact that after the death, destruction and disaster of the First World War man had still not been able to pull back from the brink of another massively self-destructive cataclysm.

My great grandfather told me of the excitement and thrill felt when the First was over, believing that man had looked in to the abyss and would now be wise enough to stay well away from such a precipice in the future. For his generation the shock of seeing the world ‘go there again’ was something he never really fully recovered from.

I grew up in school reading text books that indicated without much subtlety that I was born on ‘the winning side’. I learned all about the Nuremberg Trials – where ‘war criminals’ were tried and punished.

However as I became older I came to understand that my history books sold me simplified nonsense. If the outcome had been different, who would have gone on trial for dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Who would have been tried for the deliberate slaughter of thousands of civilians in Dresden through the complete destruction of that city with the most callous bombing ever known?

So, we come to realise that we still live in a world where it certainly seems the biggest prize for the victors is the right to punish the opponents whilst exonerating oneself for all inhumane acts. Today, it seems that if there is one difference, it’s that the wars are not so ‘obvious’, not so declared and out in the open. Instead many of them are fought by proxy, sometimes over decades. What doesn’t change, is the evidence that man, even when represented by the supposedly most upright governments of the world has an amazingly high propensity to excuse away the most barbaric and heinous treatment of other human beings.

Those who care or cry foul about human rights are laughed at, accused of being wishy-washy idealists, or worse, lackeys and sympathizers of ‘the other side’. The result – the vast bulk of the population puts its head down, looks the other way and thanks their lucky stars if it’s not happening directly in their lives. The truth that none of them can bear is they really have no way of knowing whose backyard it will happen in next.

I believe, as educators, we have a duty to be open with children so that they grow up with their eyes open. Gullible, blinded children grow up to be the blinded, gullible young people who can so easily be hoodwinked to hoist an AK-47, whether on the side of ‘the good guys’ or ‘the bad guys’.

Here are just a handful of articles seen this week that convince me our children’s eyes must be open:

Asia Times Article
New York Times article
Google Report on Amnesty Annual Review
Kashmir Watch Article

Sir Ken is Back!

Sir Ken Robinson’s original 2006 TED talk was one of the most downloaded of all. The reason was very clear. What he had to say about the way that so much of today’s schooling is stifling creativity in our children resonated so strongly with so many people.

Sir Ken’s 2010 talk picks up from there with a message that evolutionary reform of education may not be enough – he advocates nothing short of revolution. He’s very clear that we should not be simply trying to figure out how to do what we did yesterday a bit better, but have to be figuring out completely new things to do in totally new ways.

See it here:

Evaluating Teacher Performance

In management fields it’s believed that the best organisations are those committed to continuous improvement. Standing still in a changing world is not an option. In the case of a school, when we talk of continuous improvement, we must ask – of what?

Well, the answer is, of course, of many things; infrastructure, curriculum and assessment methodologies. But then, there’s the thornier issue of improvement in skills and abilities of teachers. Few deny that the quality of teaching has a significant impact on students’ learning and the quality of their education experience in school. Also, we can acknowledge that in any educational institute there will be teachers arrayed across the ‘bell curve’. Most performance driven organisations want mechanisms and processes that enable them to recognise (and reward) their best performers, whilst identifying their weakest performers for remediation or withdrawal.

However, most processes designed to assess teacher performance are plagued by the ‘culture of nice’, as articulated in the attached article from Education Leadership online magazine:

Educational Leadership: No More Valentines

I believe that we owe it to students and we owe it to the best of teachers to put in the hard work on this topic, however rocky the road, however difficult it may feel at times. The article is very interesting because it acknowledges the challenges and difficulties, but highlights three school districts in the US where innovative approaches have brought some real progress.

The circumstances in each place are different and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Nevertheless, the truisms about improvement orientated organisations do hold good everywhere.

One thing that struck me very strongly from the article was the need to organise work and accountability in such a way as to ensure that Principals and Vice Principals have adequate time for evaluation, feedback and the other aspects of academic leadership.

I would love to hear what others think, especially teachers.

%d bloggers like this: