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Friday, September 26, 2008

Education, Blogs, and Web 2.0

I am not an educator - though I have an interest in education. I am always impressed with the dedication and time teachers spend to educate our children. Most teachers do not have time (or maybe the energy) to use Web 2.0 tools to network with other teachers. The beauty of Web 2.0 is networking with the world. I'm including information from Sarah Ebner (England) because when you read her stuff, you realize everyone faces some of the same issues - if you only check with US sources, you'd think we were the only ones. When you have time, check out some of her recommendations below.

Sarah Ebner
is an experienced journalist who has been shortlisted four times at the British Press Awards, in 2008 for feature writer of the year. She was a producer and occasional reporter for BBC Newsnight, and also edited Sarah has two children and lives in London.

The 7 best teacher blogs

School Gate is nearly three months old - it's a kind of quarter birthday, and time, I think, to flag up some other education blogs that I have come across, this time based more in the UK than across the pond.

There are so many great blogs out there (some greater than others!) Many are quite wonk-ish, featuring experts dissecting education policy; few, as far as I can tell, are like School Gate and written from the parental point of view. But what I have found particularly enjoyable is all the brilliant teacher blogs available. Anyone interested in education should take a look at these...
Please note that I haven't repeated any of the blogs mentioned in my original post on the ten
best education blogs but still enjoy them!

1) To Miss with Love
Miss Snuffleupagus is a black teacher in inner city London. She writes honestly, with wit and passion, and is not afraid of controversy (except of course that she obviously is, a little, or she would use her real name). Her blog is never dull. Go and read it - you won't be disappointed
Sample post:
"Racism does exist in schools. But it often has little to do with the achievement or underachievement of black pupils. Unfortunately however, in our modern world, the race-card must be played to further certain people’s careers and to make others simply feel better about themselves. And so the madness goes on. And my kids are indeed made into victims. But they are not victims of racism. They are victims of the racism debate."

2) My
Well, I had to include a few American examples, and I truly enjoy reading Carol Richtsmeier's views and news about education. She's a teacher in Texas, very well informed and writes beautifully, with a lovely light touch.
"My daughter, who works at a day care while attending attending Texas Tech, called this past weekend to rhetorically asked if I knew “what moron decided it’s OK to put 18 4-year-olds in a room with one teacher.”
“Why the same moron who has never been locked in a room with 18 4-year-olds, bless their hearts,” I replied.
Then, my daughter, who also works a second job at a grocery store, said her co-workers were discussing the recent Russian crisis…
(Isn’t that great, I thought, young people discussing current events. I got goosebumps just thinking about it.)
Oh, but wait… one of her co-workers, well…
“She thought Russia had invaded Georgia,” my daughter said, “as in the state, not the country.”
Never one to let a teachable moment slip by, I said, “You see why it’s so important to get your college degree?”
“But Mom, I think she is in school,” my daughter said."

3) Scenes from the Battleground
Old Andrew is a British secondary school teacher with very strong views and opinions which are always carefully expressed and strongly argued. A very good read (I'm always disappointed when he doesn't post daily, which must be a good sign.)
"The biggest, single policy mistake in education in the last twenty years, the one that has undermined everything else, has been the attempt to treat badly behaved children as if they had a right to be in classes with their victims. This has been labelled as “Inclusion” and is often presented as simply an extension of policies aimed at including the disabled in schools; to a true believer children with problems and children who cause problems are one and the same."

4) It shouldn't happen to a teacher
I really like this delightful blog by a young maths teacher. He veers from enthusiasm - well behaved students whom he loves to teach - to incomprehension when they don't behave or hassle him. Believable and very enjoyable.
"As I got out of my car a pupil I'd taught in year ten shouted to me 'Sir! I got an A in maths!' This is of course fantastic. I'd given that group up at the end of year ten because my relationship with them was based on mutual loathing. The girl in question was actually one of about three I could actually stand in the group so I was pleased my teaching hadn't ruined her chances to do well.
And I was delighted with my class's results. I'd been set a target of eight grade Cs, in total we got twelve. More importantly I was able to punch the air when I read them for some of the pupils. Some of them had worked really hard and deserved their success.
In the cases where pupils hadn't gotten a C I had good excuses too: 'she's never here', 'he's bone-idle', 'he's a twat' etc..."

It's not all Flowers and Sausages
Written for teachers "who rock", this American blog is really good fun and very well written. It gives a real insight into the world of teaching, but with a light touch.
"Sometimes it feels as if the forces in the universe are aligning to make this job as difficult as possible, just to see if I have the balls to stick with it. Other times, it feels as if teachers (as people) are the absolute last priority on everyone's list...that we will just suck it up and deal with ridiculous situations "for the kids."
If one more person tells me to do it "for the kids", I might throw a kid at them. Seriously. Stop playing on our good intentions and altruistic dedication to the future and treat us like the professionals you so desperately claim you want us to be. It just seems at times as if this job teeters on the brink of being inhumane."

Mr Teacher (UK version - although the totally unconnected US version is worth a look too!)
Another secondary school teacher from the UK (where are primary school teachers?) who writes a thoughtful blog where he is as honest about British education as he is about himself.
Sample post:
"When students reach the point when they are choosing their options for further study - when only English, maths and science are compulsory - my subject suffers tremendously. In other words, hardly anybody picks it. This pains me because I have come to admit to myself that, as a teacher, I must shoulder some of the responsibility. And I have decided that it is partly due to the fact that my lessons, and my delivery of these lessons, have not been sufficiently interesting and engaging."

7) Diary of a trainee teacher
Yes, it's a primary school teacher, but only for the moment! This blog is by a modern languages graduate who's decided to go into teaching and is currently training. It's fresh and fun to read, but makes some interesting points too.
"As part of my assignment for this course I’ve been asked to write a reflective journal, and the main thing that I’ve realised through the writing of this journal is that I DEFINITELY couldn’t teach primary school. The Year 6 classes are nice enough, but then they’re a well behaved group who will soon be year 7s. Today with younger children I really realised that small children often can’t sit still, are always telling tales (please miss, so and so is doing it wrong) and take loads of time and fuss to do anything! I know that teenagers may well not be any better, but at least I can then say “year 8 I’m very disappointed, with behaviour like that I’d think you were still in year 3!”. I also know I’d find it frustrating teaching children to say ‘bonjour’ and ‘mon frère’ over and over again."

Read my original tips on the Ten Best Education Blogs

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