Curriculum Flexibility Matters

It’s flavour of the month for politicians, ministers and civil servants (all experts on education, of course) to talk about needs for ‘a national curriculum’, especially for science and maths. None of them are too clear about WHY there’s a need for a national curriculum, but it sounds pretty good and jolly knowledgeable!

However, here’s the very reason why a national curriculum, or any kind of overly rigid dictation of what is to be learned, by whom, when can be a disaster.

ABC News Article
(Click on link above to read article)

I personally get really saddened when i see major events happening in the world, yet passing the classrooms by because “it doesn’t fit with what we’re doing this month”. Imagine, for a moment, what that experience must be like for a child. The TV news, what parents are talking about etc. is all about something major happening in the world. And yet……, their classroom remains like a timeless bubble, the land that time forgot – a place untouched by the real world outside. Should we wonder at all if children start to question the relevance of school?

By all means determine some key skills and competencies that students should be able to exhibit within a certain length of time, within each subject – but then, i believe the ministers and civil servants need to get out of the educators’ way and let them do their job. If they want to make themselves useful it should be to ensure that all teachers get the training and professional development to have the means and the flexibility to take learnable/ teachable moments and make the best of them.

Summer Reading for Children

In some parts of India the children’s summer vacations are already over, in the North they’re drawing towards the end. However, I thought it was still worth sharing this interesting list of suggested children’s reading, though it has a strongly US leaning and all may not be available in the shops here.

(Landmark offer a good ordering service)

ASCD Summer Book List

Getting Serious About Sleep

I’ve written a few times before about sleep and the potential risks we’re taking with our children’s learning in and out of school if we neglect their sleep, or fail to achieve effective sleep patterns and habits for/ with them:
December Article
March Article
June Article

Well, I just found a new article today that really puts it all in to perspective. It especially highlights and shows up just how foolish and naive are (and always were) those habits of ‘burning the midnight oil’ before tests and exams. Now, the big danger here is that I did it when i was a student, most of the parents reading this did it when they were students – but, the plain fact is we just didn’t know any better.

When confronted with serious and genuine research evidence of this nature it would be criminal if we failed to do everything in our power to get the message across to our children that this is one area in which we most certainly do not wish them to follow our example.

Would any of us willingly put ourselves through 48 hours with no sleep before an activity that was going to require our mental faculties to be working at their very best? However, as this article clearly indicates, that is what many of our children are doing regularly.

I also continue to believe that this evidence on adult mental faculty and moods gives every indication that we need to look at children’s sleep seriously in all cases where there are behavioural issues or challenges.

It was also disturbing to see the links in the scientific evidence between sleep deprivation and weight gain (and even diabetes risks).

Newsweek Article on Sleep Deprivation
(Click on link above to access the article)

Why We Don’t Have Interactive White Boards

I wrote an article here on the blog about my reasons for caution and wariness about interactive white boards back in January.

Earlier article
(Click on link above to access)

I was therefore very interested to see this recent post on an award winning US teacher’s blog.

The Innovative Educator Blog

Firstly, it’s quite startling to see that some of the so-called ‘expert evidence’ in favour of the use of these boards is getting sponsored by the board manufacturers and marketers.

Secondly, the final paragraph picks up on my biggest concern – not only with using them per se, but especially bringing them in to an Indian context – they may actually be providing the perfect smoke screen behind which luddite teachers may mask their failure to become reflective, active, learning educators aspiring to become masters in the art of professional classroom teaching. Instead, they do ‘stand and deliver’ with a few visual add-ons.

A Search Engine for Children

This is an idea that’s been due for some time – a search engine exclusively for children:

Sweet search

Teacher Accountability & Performance

Here’s a follow up to some earlier articles I’ve shared on this blog around the issues of assessing teachers’ performance and how to create school climates and culture that promote excellence in teaching.

Earlier articles:
What Motivates Top Teachers
What Makes a Truly Great Teacher
Evaluating Teacher Performance

This is a new article that questions what is happening in the US right now on this front. There, the new approach is that teachers should be paid according to the results of their children in standardised exams. With, I think, lots of justification there’s a lot of criticism that this will see teachers simply teaching to the test and/ or will not. Cynics and those who doubt would say that, at least they would have some certainty that teachers would be teaching and some focus in their work is better than none.

This article shares an approach which is adopted and taken very seriously in Japan. I have read elsewhere of how seriously the ‘lesson study’ approach is taken. A teacher will put together a lesson which will be observed by (sometimes dozens of) his/ her peers. They will sometimes be the very best and most reputed teachers of that subject from all over the city, not just the observed teacher’s own school. After the lesson has been observed it is debated and discussed in great detail.

The article acknowledges that to introduce such an approach in American schools would require a fairly significant culture change and similar would be the case in India. Teachers would have to be willing to open up their work to expose it to the critique of their peers . They would need to be comfortable with sharing frank feedback with peers in a spirit of professional growth. They would also need to be willing to focus upon school-wide quality of teaching, looking beyond their own individual perspective.

What could make this attractive to teachers is that if the desire is to be for accountability then this is far more attractive and less intimidating than the alternatives.

Is This How I Sound?

Oh, this gave me the best chuckle all week. I sincerely hope this woman isn’t getting paid for doing this stuff, because she’s plain wrong on almost every count:

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