Seriously, stop using your smartphone in bed

Apparently,  the weight of evidence is growing.  If we keep electronic devices in the bedroom,  or use them during the last hour or so before going to bed we are harming or sleep.  Good enough reason to reconsider habits.

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Numbers Rule, OK?

Do you ever have an ‘off day’?

Maybe, a day when you don’t feel at your best, when your energy level is down, when concentration comes a bit harder, when that sniffle and cold that won’t go away is getting you down, when you had a disagreement with a family member and said some harsh words that are now playing on your mind, when the demise of a beloved pet has left you feeling sad and listless?

I’m guessing everyone reading answered ‘Yes’ to at least one of those – after all, to some extent, these are the things that make us human.

Now, supposing you knew that whilst experiencing ‘one of those days’ you were to be subjected to a high stakes test that could have earth-shattering impact for your future, maybe even cause you to lose your job? Well, as an adult, of course, you would figure that, as hard as it might be, you would need to put aside your emotions, park them or pack them up in a box for a while and deal with them after the high stakes test is over.

But, what if you were just 10 years old?

We talk about being a profession that wants to be respected. We talk about being child-centric, learner-centric and caring about the ‘whole child’. Then, we go and make Class 5 children stake their futures on high stakes tests. In all of that, how much faith and trust are we placing in the ‘test makers’ to practice an exact science that ensures that the high stakes test really measures what it intends to measure (let alone that it tests what needs to be tested).

These are just a few thoughts that went through my mind when I read this superb and impassioned blog post from my good friend, Dr Sue Lyle. In it she reflects very effectively on the dangers inherent in the current trend to want to use hard measurable data to drive decision making in education, both at the level of the individual student as well as at a whole school or even whole state/ district/ County level.

Dr Sue Lyle – blog post – Number Rule OK
(Click on the link above to read Dr Lyle’s article)

This is a debate on which more educators need to speak up, not necessarily just to talk about what ‘we don’t want’, but also to explore and brainstorm alternatives that can meet the needs of systemic improvement whilst preventing the harm caused by the remorseless pursuit of simplistic data. I, for one, don’t want to reach the day when we just shrug and accept that the best we can hope for is that schools and teachers teach well to the test!

The Qualities of Great Teachers

In many ways the debate about great teaching goes to the very heart of the debate about education’s purpose, objectives and what teachers ought to be held accountable for (and hold themselves accountable for). If we can figure out what it is that great teachers do, or at least do more of, we all hope and believe that we can bring about significant improvement in quality and standards of education for all the children in our schools.

In these days of obsession with data as ways of measuring and defining when good education is or isn’t happening, it’s dangerously possible to forget that there can’t be good education without good teaching. Whilst I’m an advocate of things like Khan Academy, I truly believe that the school and the teachers in school have the ability to support critical learning of 21st Century skills in ways that IT alone cannot (the key is to have teachers harnessing the powers of IT as critical tools in the process).

Over the last few months, I’ve been gathering together some interesting materials that reflect on these issues of what makes a great teacher. One of the things that i found most interesting is the combination of timeless attributes and ‘new’ 21st Century skills.

The first resource is a video presentation by Sir Michael Barber for an education conference in Jamaica. He was one of the presenters in the film “We are the people we’ve been waiting for”, a senior adviser to the Tony Blair government in UK on education and now a thought leader for Pearson’s on education policy and future directions:

Next we have a debate/ exchange of ideas amongst a panel of five prominent educators with some interesting reflections:

NPR-Ed - 5 Great Teachers on What Makes a Great Teacher

The third piece is an ASCD blog post by educational consultant, Elliott Seif who deliberately sets out to discuss 12 qualities that are given less attention, but are nevertheless vitally important. He sets them out as a brief list first and then elaborates in some detail on each of the 12:

ASCD Blog Post - One Dozen Qualities of Great Teachers

I would love to hear what people think. Do you agree with specifics in some of these pieces, or think the writers and presenter are missing the point? Are there some qualities listed here that you really think shouldn't be focused upon? Are the qualities of great teachers culturally specific or do the same qualities hold good in every education system in the world?

If we were to agree that these represent a great foundation for defining great teachers, is it realistic to look for these qualities in all teachers, or is that just too far beyond what's possible?