28 May 2013

On valuing staff...

 (This post has been deliberately delayed by a couple of months)

Earlier this afternoon, I managed to grab a moment with a colleague from one of our associate colleges to arrange a visit and to contribute a guest session to the course at her centre. We agreed the date and how my session would fit into the overall scheme of work. Straightforward. And then to the logistics--routine and trivial, of course.

Not any more. Not only have I been unable to observe students' teaching practice on several occasions because I have not got a CRB* clearance--I haven't "failed" it, but the university won't pay for it, and I don't see why I should do so from my own pocket... But at a completely different level, my colleague informed me that the date we had just agreed was also that of her routine annual "performance review". Without going into detail, this is all about targets. And if she does not satisfy the inquisition  panel she may no longer be employed by the time I get there.

(She continues to be employed, but this kind of punitive approach to management is getting ever more common in colleges--I was prompted actually to post by this reminder of an alternative vision, albeit in the school sector.)

* Now the even more Orwellian "Disclosure and Barring Service"; isn't it oxymoronic (or just moronic?) to call such an agency a "service"?

27 May 2013

On knowing one's limits...

Last week my son called, seeking esoteric information about me. Do my ears have lobes?* What colour are my eyes? What's the term which describes my eyelids?**

Why? It's for my (step) grand-daughter's homework. On genetics. In primary school. Brilliant! I'm all for it.

Up to a point. As S and I discussed, since our son is not her biological father, it's all theoretical, and for once
that may be a Good Thing. And they didn't ask about blood group, thank goodness...

But. It's a minefield. How many primary school teachers (who are generalists--they teach children rather than subjects) are able to field questions about Mendelian genetics--particularly when they come from kids who begin to wonder about who they are? It's a Pandora's box.

My concern here is not really about transitory dissonances or the ethical issues (important though they are), but about teachers trying to teach things they themselves don't really understand. It's quite a courageous act to concede one's limitations, particularly in the face of children's expectations but with a required curriculum that may not be much of an option.

There are of course more and more topics like this, and there is no way teachers can keep up. The media fill the gaps, but often with scant regard for the accuracy or suitability of the information they put out, and with ever easier informal access to information, the authority of the teacher is undermined. That may well not be a Bad Thing--I was certainly taught a great deal of rubbish at school--but it calls for a re-think. Perhaps it is another push in the direction of a "new educational paradigm"; but even that can't be taken at face value.

*  "How long have you known me for?" I asked. Of course you don't register such things with your nearest and dearest...

** epicanthic fold. Actually it's wrong, because in my case the fold is at the outer end of the eye--most famously exhibited by SuperMac.  But it's good enough for present purposes...

Items to Share: 26 May

Education Focus
  • The OFSTED Teaching Style | Scenes From The Battleground  Ofsted reports analysed on the basis of the boiler-plate phrases they appear to use, indicate discrepancies between espoused theories and theories-in-use--and probably between the leadership and the rank and file of the organisation.
Other Business

20 May 2013

Items to Share: 19 May

Education Focus
  • The God of Data by Rob Barratt (video--with thanks to Neil Burton for the link)
Other Business