Friday, November 30, 2018

What makes a teacher great ? Read what Sir Ken Robinson says

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at
This edition will be the last one for 2018. We appreciate it a busy time with political action, end of term activities, and school reports but suggest you save readings to cherry pick mid January

Sir Ken Robinson: What makes a teacher great?
‘Education innovator Sir Ken Robinson, School News deliberated over misconceptions about great teaching. “It’s assumed, I think, that to be a good teacher essentially all you need is to have a good degree in whatever it is you’re being paid to teach,” Sir Ken noted. “It’s simply not true, it was never true.’

Rewards Are Still Bad News (25 Years Later)
By A
lfie Kohn
‘It’s not just that these two are different but that the first tends to undermine the second. Intrinsic motivation (loving what you do) is also the best predictor of high-quality achievement, which is why — brace yourself for another counterintuitive discovery — people promised a reward for doing something often end up doing it more poorly than people who weren’t.

How Schools Thwart Passions
‘Pursuit of passions requires time for play and self-directed education. Play, almost by definition, IS following your passions.  But we’ve pretty much removed play from young people’s lives.

The habits of highly effective teachers
Teachers who have high levels of self-efficacy, or those who believe in their own abilities, have the biggest impact on student learning, a new University of Melbourne review shows.'

Every Kid Can Do Amazing Things
‘Potential identified, at a very early age; then nurtured,
rehearsed, practiced until potential becomes a passion. Isn’t that the perfect mix?  Or is it that his passion showed his potential? What comes first? Either way, helping him to navigate where his passion might take him becomes the main game.’

 War on Boys 
‘What ever happened to letting "boys be boys?" Take these two cases: In one, a seven-year-old boy
was sent home for nibbling a Pop Tart into a gun. In another, a teacher was so alarmed by a picture drawn by a student (of a sword fight), that the boy's parents were summoned in for a conference. In short, boys in America's schools are routinely punished for being active, competitive, and restless. In other words, boys can no longer be boys. Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, explains how we can change this.’

Finland’s digital-based curriculum impedes learning, researcher finds
'The more that digital tools were used in lessons, the worse learning outcomes were. This was
found in all areas of the Pisa measurements," she said, noting that it was not a question of students being unable to use the devices. Instead, she said students can easily be distracted by the devices themselves - like laptops or tablets - and often start using them for something besides schoolwork. Saarinen said the results surprised her, but only to a certain degree.’

Why Pedagogy First, Tech Second Stance is Key to the Future
While I am a huge advocate for the purposeful integration of technology in schools, we must resist the temptation to think that this is the solution to solve all the ills in our current education system.
What concerns me most is how many districts and schools are going all in with one-on-one or bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives with no real plan for implementation and evaluation of effectiveness. This lack of planning and support will likely result in devices never achieving the outcomes that they were designed to achieve. It’s foolish to think that students will learn just by putting a device in their hands.

If People Talked To Other Professional The Way They Talk To
I am sure you will all relate to this!

Cursive: the reason it is still relevant today and the science behind it.
Fine motor skills are the building blocks our brains need to connect and make sense of the world
around us. Cursive is a great example of many specializations taking place at once.’

Student Writing in the Digital Age
‘Essays filled with “LOL” and emojis? College student writing today actually is longer and contains no more errors than it did in 1917.’

Grouping students in mathematics... more than just mixed ability
Sue Pine
‘In recent years many teachers have moved away from the use of ability groups in mathematics towards a more flexible approach using mixed ability groups.When students are given the opportunity to work in mixed ability groups on carefully designed tasks they begin to see themselves as being able to do mathematics, which builds a positive mathematical mindset and identity.’

A Grading Strategy That Puts the Focus On Learning From Mistakes
'Teachers know that students learn a tremendous amount from scrutinizing their mistakes, but getting them to take the time to stop and reflect is a challenge.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

A short story : Why isn't Sione in the dance group.
‘This short story was sent to me by a 'teachers' friend' from the North. It poetically illustrates the
dangers of imposing a narrow standards based approach to learning. Schools need to tap into the interests, culture and motivations that students bring with them and not try to fit them into middle class boxes.’

Creativity – its place in education
‘Once the arts are restored to a more central role in educational institutions, there could be a tremendous unleashing of creative energy in other disciplines too.’

Quality learning: William Glasser - 'Schools without Failure' ; and Jerome Bruner - solving 'learning blocks'.
‘A number of years ago many schools implemented the ideas of Dr William Glasser . Glasser had written a number of books all with a focus on achieving quality work.’

Time to throw out formulaic teaching - be creative

Friday, November 23, 2018

Teachers strike / Creativity at Spotswood College NP / outdoor educ. / future education - Sir Ken Robinson

Education Readings
By Allan Alach

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Teacher strike. Put yourself in teachers' shoes
‘Teacher strikes are an inconvenience to parents for all of one day but I wonder if those who moan have really put themselves in the shoes of the teachers. Have they asked why they're doing it? As the teachers say, they are doing it for the future of our children.

Our teachers earn apples and oranges so let's bring back the 1970's way of offering them free housing
‘The day the teachers went on strike, someone put a simple graphic on Facebook. It set out two sets of salary numbers.: MP $18,000 - Teacher $17,360; Today: MP $160,024 - Teacher $78,000.This was something I'd been lamenting for ages, possibly even in this column: when I was at school, the pay for an MP and a teacher was about the same. Not any more.’

Wellness centre and new curriculum part of college revamp
Nicola Ngarewa took over at Spotswood College, New Plymouth, at the start of term four and is already making changes to align the school with the best learning institutes in New Zealand.Among the new initiatives are a new curriculum, based on international research, where students can create their own timetables around their own interests, and an optional wellness centre.’

The great outdoors: What our young people need
‘This alienation, referred to by Louv as nature deficit disorder, has become increasingly acknowledged as detrimental. Conversely, research is increasingly showing that time spent in nature is beneficial. Not only does time spent in nature increase general well-being, but it improves certain types of thinking, stimulating creative thinking in particular.’

Educating for an unknown future
Marion Brady:
Marion Brady
‘What lies ahead for students are major messes — global warming, nonstop wars, disposing of radioactive waste, reversing wealth concentration, and dozens of other problems they didn’t create but have to try to clean up or figure out how to live with.To do that, they’ll need to generate new knowledge, but they aren’t being taught how. Instead, they are spending most of the school day cramming existing information into short-term memory.’

Questioning: The Real Technology
Jamie McKenzie:
‘This article contends that questions and questioning (mindware) are critically important human technologies that might enable young people to solve problems, make smart decisions and score well on the tests of life as well all the other tests that loom in a child's world. Without strong questioning skills, information technologies contribute little to understanding or insight. There is even some chance that they might dilute understanding and interfere with thinking.’

Abandoning the Factory Model of Education
‘Still, the question remains: Why are many educators still necessitating the silence, conformity, and traditionalism of the factory model of schooling? Is it fear of change or sheer stubbornness that is holding us back from embracing this much-needed cultural shift in education to meet the ever-changing needs of our world?’

Why Kids Should Use Their Fingers in Math Class
‘Evidence from brain science suggests that far from being “babyish,” the technique is essential for mathematical achievement.

Ways of Thinking, Not School Subjects
‘I think the concern arises because we wrongly think of things like math, history, and science as subjects. But they are not. They are ways of thinking, and once we treat them that way, the answer to the question becomes more obvious: self-directed learners learn things like math and history when they encounter things they want to do that require those ways of thinking.’

It Really is Time to Change School
‘So what’s changed in our schools? For too many, not much, but for an increasing number the past four years have meant a big shift in thinking about what school could and should be. Hopefully that’s you, but then maybe you’ve been in that space for longer than four years, so the exciting thing for you is… now you’re not alone.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Transform Education? Yes we must. Lets listen to Sir Ken Robinson
If educationalists were to stand up they already have the ideal supporting document – the, all but side-lined, 2007 New Zealand Curriculum. To do this would means breaking out of compliance mode which sees schools focussing on looking after their own self-interest.’

A great little study: The Flax bush
There are few schools do not have flax bushes in their school grounds - or , if not ,they ought to.
November is an ideal time for a class to study them as they are in full flower. A good idea is for teachers to learn with their class as 'co-explorers' and the easiest way to begin is to simply visit a plant and observe through the senses.’

Friday, November 16, 2018

What teachers did under National / the urgency to unlearn / the future of learning / the challenge of creativity.

The end of a week of rolling strikes in NZ
Education Readings

By Allan Alach

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Why didn't teachers strike when National was in? I'll tell you what we did!!
Confronting National's Min Tolley
This blog post aims to put that to bed.  Because teachers did not sit quietly during National's tenure.  They, with the NZEI and PPTA, stood strong against #GERM neoliberal policies set up to destroy our free quality public education system.  Because of teachers, Minister of Education Chris Hipkins and the coalition government have the bones and a bit of flesh still left.’

Why Are We Still Assigning Homework?
‘I am asking that teachers who are assigning homework really think about why you are assigning it. I want parents to think about why they push for it.  As I have talked to parents, teachers, kids, administrators I have never heard anyone say, “I love homework. My kids get so much out of it!”’

What we don’t teach children
What is real? It’s a simple question, but one worth asking if you’re at a young age.
In my work in education, I’ve often come to the conclusion that the most important thing we can encourage students to do is this:Question reality.

The Magic of Validation
Validation is the act of recognizing and affirming the feelings or perspective of another person. It’s acknowledging that these thoughts and feelings are true for that person. It’s a very simple, astoundingly fast way to make progress in a conversation: It eases tension, builds trust, and gets you and the other person to a solution more quickly.’

The Urgency to Unlearn
‘To be blunt, in the 10 years since posting, none of the things on my list of “10 Things We Need to Unlearn” have we actually unlearned. In fact, I’m hard pressed to argue that we’ve even made inroads on any of them. That said, is anyone surprised?’

Literate, Numerate or Curious?
‘Here’s an interesting question for your next workshop, faculty meeting, or maybe even a dinner party?“Would you rather that your children were literate, numerate, or curious?” Pick one, and why?For many, it’s a tough choice; for most, you want all three. But if you had to choose one, which one would it be?’

The future of learning - Australia
‘Very quickly I realised this school is unlike most others. Firstly, traditional classrooms don’t exist; instead, the learning spaces are rich and engaging in their own right. Instead of rows of desks, you’re presented with learning spaces offering a real difference.Most of the spaces have been crafted to provide engaging and immersive environments designed to spark the imagination.’

Learning About Learning
‘After more than forty years learning about learning, I’m intrigued by how much I still need to learn. Does this apply to you?’

4 Skills and Traits Great Schools Teach That Will Always be Essential
'Most educators are aware of the “Four C’s” (Critical thinking, Creativity, Collaboration and Communication) and their importance in schools for ensuring the development of today’s skills in our students. But there are other essential skills and traits that are extremely important;.

How to Become and Remain a Transformational Teacher
‘Transformational teachers share best practices, build mentoring relationships, observe their peers, keep things fresh, model their subject's usefulness, and demonstrate caring beyond what they teach.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Gardner on creativity – are schools encouraging creativity? The challenge of creativity.
‘Gardner says his audiences expect him to fully endorse creativity but creativity in human history was ‘neither sought after nor rewarded’.  Human societies are naturally conservative – and schools particularly so. Humans strive to maintain their current position and in schools this mitigates against educational innovation and interdisciplinary leaps.’

Experience and Education -John Dewey 1938
Such a lot of the ideas expressed today have their genesis in the ideas of John Dewey.That Dewey's ideas have yet to be fully realised says something for the power of conservatism in education.’

Friday, November 09, 2018

Burnt out teachers and stressed students / Armistice Day / creative education

11th of the 11th 1918

Education Readings
 By Allan Alach

I know a school

I know a school where almost all the students are successful. It's an interesting place.
They don't give grades at this school.
There are no numbers.
No test scores. No SAT, ACT, no GPA or other acronyms.
No rankings.
Yet, the kids are more than alright.
They create amazing things.
They contribute to their communities in all sorts of ways.
They're happy.
They love coming to school.
Those that want to go to college after they graduate.
Others take different paths, which everyone celebrates.
We talk about success in schools as if it were a data point.
It's not.
And even if it were, you really think the data we're collecting now equates to success in any but the most tenuous ways?
Look at your kids.
Talk to them.
See if they love to learn.
See if they have passion.
See if they care.
See if they're happy.
Those are much clearer indicators of "success" than any set of numbers can supply.

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Armistice Day
At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the armistice that ended WW1 came into force.  Here are some websites that may be of use to teachers.

Armistice Day from the New Zealand History website

Papers Past
Older children could be asked to go back into time to read copies of newspapers from 1918. There may even be copies of letters.

Ten Facts About The Armistice

Armistice Day in WWI: Definition & Facts

We’re sure you will be able to find plenty of others and make this into a major study.

Moving on:

After National Standards - Have your say about the emerging ideas
Following the removal of the compulsory use of National Standards and Ngā Whanaketanga Rumaki Māori in December 2017, the Ministry signalled it would work with the education sector – with input from students, parents, whānau, iwi and communities – to focus on progress and achievement across the National Curriculum We want to know what you think about the emerging ideas developed by our Ministerial Advisory Group.’

Teachers: Move On Before You Burn Out
Have you moved on in order to keep from burning out? Have you changed a subject or grade you taught, or even your school? Sometimes this is the best choice.’

Why are kids impatient, bored, friendless, and entitled?
‘“Kids today are in a devastating emotional state! Most come to school emotionally unavailable for learning. There are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this.” . I encourage every parent who cares about the future of his/her children to read it. I know that many would choose not to hear what she says in the article, but your children needs you to hear this message.’

Drawing Is the Fastest, Most Effective Way to Learn, According to New Research
‘But according to a fascinating new study, the right answer is whenever was the last time you tried to learn anything new. Put away the highlighter (really, science shows they're worse than useless) and skip the flash cards. The fastest way to cram new information into your brain is by drawing it, concludes the research.’

How Jo Boaler Hopes To Mold Math Mindsets
Jo Boaler
Boaler — who teaches at Stanford — travels the country with a message of hope for teachers. There are obvious flaws, she says, in a system that uses stressful tests to decide who's got a brain for math and counts on rote memorization to build mathematical curiosity. With her talks, her research, and a website full of videos about mathematics, her mission is not to build memories — but mindsets.’

To Learn, Students Need to DO Something
‘First, let me say that authentic, project-based learning is probably the best way to have students experience meaningful learning. But many schools and classrooms aren’t quite there yet: They deliver instruction in a more traditional way. That model can still result in solid learning, if it’s implemented correctly. And that’s where I’m seeing a problem. I think we’re skipping over one of the most important steps in our lesson plans.’

Less is more – practical tips for teachers for students with a disability.
‘An education assistant can be an invaluable resource in the classroom to support the teacher to include a student with disability.  They can assist the class teacher to provide a great educational experience to all students as well as increase the independence and social connection of the student with disability.’

Be neotenous: The importance of curiosity for teachers
As teachers, I think we are genuinely interested in generating and nurturing curiosity in our learners. We worry about squashing curiosity and the childlike wonder in our learners, particularly when they start school. We believe that curious learners are engaged, passionate, excited. But I’m not sure that we invest enough in our own curiosity as adults.'

Why “Goldilocks” Parenting Helps Build Executive Functioning Skills
‘Increasingly, researchers are discovering that “just right” is an important concept for how we parent. It has to do with how kids develop executive functioning.
Executive functioning is the “air traffic control system” of the brain. It helps kids focus, remember rules, resist temptation and think flexibly. The way we parent can affect how kids’ executive functioning skills develop.’

Head, hand and heart
Steve Wheeler:
‘Hyman's perspective is that change is needed and that a repertoire of curriculum strategies is required to give young people a rounded education. These include real world learning (which presumably involves immersion in real world probems, challenge based learning etc), maths mastery, oracy techniques and storytelling - and dialogue, plenty of dialogue.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Einstein, Darwin, da Vinci & Mozart et all - lessons from the Masters
‘Although there have been individual teachers who have developed creative classrooms most classrooms could be classified as benign environments where students achieve success by achieving teacher determined objectives. Imagine an education system premised on developing every students talents and passions!’

Transforming education: Stop teaching and begin learning with your students
Teachers spend hours and hours of their time preparing lessons for their students but all too often the only person learning anything are the teachers themselves. Even the most attentive and compliant of students do not get what the teachers    intend – and worse still researchers have shown that that such teaching does not change students’ minds – and changing minds is the definition of learning.