Archive for September, 2013

An education to change the world

September 30, 2013 2 comments

This month’s #blogsync topic is reactionary, evocative and emotional.  It can be read, and answered in many different ways, and I can imagine that there have been many fierce and impassioned debates on the topic all over the world. I have very much enjoyed reading the contributions published so far and look forward to reading more.

While thinking about the question I remembered hearing the following quote from Nelson Mandela:

“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world”.  Mandela (2003)

And I think that this really sums up the purpose of education. Education is the key to everything. The pupils we are educating are the people who will be in charge of the country, the world, in the future. They are the future prime ministers, presidents, politicians, economists, bankers, police, doctors, teachers, everything. The impact we leave on these pupils will be our legacy and that impact will last forever.

The power of education is truly great on a macro and a micro level, and I intend to discuss both here.

On a macro level, it is the education of today’s young people that will affect the way society runs in the future. If we wish the future to have advancements in the field of medical science, then we must ensure that the science curriculum in schools is adequate enough to produce scientists who are capable of making those discoveries. If we wish our future to involve a secure economy, we must make sure that the pupils we have are equipped with the right mathematical skill to be able to balance a budget, both their own and that of the country. We need to ensure that enough of the young people are interested enough in the economy to study it further and to make sure the future is bright. We also need to educate our young on the issues that affect social policy. The world is forever changing, but we must instill a sense of fairness in it. We can all see prejudice in the world, and we have all grown up with unfairness ad inequality. If we educate the pupils of today on these matters then when they are tomorrow’s policy makers then they can ensure that they are bringing in policy which fights and eradicates those injustices.

On a micro level, the purpose of education is to improve oneself. To find a future where one can be happy, doing something worthwhile and enjoyable. I met a guy called Jonathan over the summer. He was a friend of a friend and we got chatting and quickly the discussion turned to education, He told me the following about his family, which I really think hits home about the power of education. He told me his mother was one of many siblings (possibly 7), and that her father had been a miner in the town they lived in in Scotland. He had been keen for his children to get an education and worked and worked to ensure they could all follow their education through to postgraduate level. He said that they all ended up with well paid jobs, and later paid for their father to return to his own education, and in fact he ended up lecturing in higher education in later life. Jonathan spoke of this social mobility as something that would not have been possible without the power of education and I’m inclined to agree.

“We don’t need no education, We don’t need no thought control.” (Waters, 1979)

This song is part of the fantastic work that is “The Wall” by Pink Floyd, and today a year 11 pupil sang it too me in an attempt to claim that she should not be required to study maths for homework outside of school, and I thought I needed to mention something about it here. I think that there is a lot wrong with the sentiment of the statement. Although I do love the irony involved with the double negative. The overall sentiment of the line, as used by said year 11, was that society uses education as a means of controlling the thoughts of the young. And I think that when misused, that is a danger of schooling, and that certain regimes over the course of history have used schooling as a source of indoctrination. However, I think that fundamentally education is the exact opposite. It is not about controlling the mind, it is about freeing the mind. It is about ensuring that pupils leaving education do so with the tools to succeed, and to investigate their own paths and create their own futures.

Free education for everyone under 18

We are lucky enough to live in a society that offers a free education for all people up to the age of 18. Infact, one that insists upon it. This is something I feel we can be immensely proud of. It means that the tools of social mobility are there. There are also many things in place to aid anyone that wants to to continue their study (i.e. student loans) and this too is something to be proud of. Personally, I would suggest we could do more. I would suggest that university education should be free, paid for by a graduate taxed levied on graduates who earn above a threshold. The exact same way the loan works, but with no nominal amounts attached to individual people. An equal society for all.

This free education we receive hasn’t always been. It was what James Keir Hardie and others fought for at the turn of the 20th century, to take the monopoly on education out of the hands of the privileged few and give it to all, as historically poorer families either couldn’t meet school fees, or needed the extra income they could gain by sending their children out to work.

This free education for all is something that is coveted still in the modern world. In Pakistan, for instance, girls are still fighting for the right to be educated. Malala Yousafzai has become famous for this fight, one she very nearly lost her life in. Pedagog in the machine has written a superb blogsync entry on her here.

She gave an extremely passionate speech on her 16th birthday which included this quote:

“We must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty, injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of their schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright, peaceful future. So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism. Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.” (Yousafzai 2013)

So what is the purpose of education?

Put simply, to change the world for the better. By educating the young people of today, we can ensure a better, fairer, more equal society for the future. We can show them the mistakes we have made, and the mistakes of those that have gone before us to ensure that those mistakes are not repeated. No one can see what the future holds, but by using the powerful tool that is education we can do our best to make it better for everyone concerned. For individuals sure, but also for society as a whole. That is why we do it, that is the overall aim of the overwhelming majority of educators I know, and that is what people all over the world are fighting to be able to achieve.


Reference List

Anonymous. 2013. The Purpose of Education. 18th September. Pedagog in the Machine. [Online]. [30th September]. Available from:

Mandela, N.R 2003. Lighting your way to a better future. 16 July, Planetarium, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Waters, R 1979. Another Brick in The Wall. Pink Floyd. The Wall [CD] Correns/New York/Los Angeles: Harvest Records/EMI records

Yousafzai, M. 2013 Speech to the UN. 12th July. United Nations headquarters, New York.

Open evening, and difficult conversations.

September 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Whoa, what a week. It’s been a long one, and full of some major ups and downs.

Tuesday was an open day for parents and year 6 pupils to come and have a look round. As always it was fun (playing maths games), interesting (meeting new parents/pupils) and knackering (staying at school to approaching nine!). There were a few highlights that surpassed the norm though. 1, a former pupil dropped by to say hello. He was in my first a level class back in my NQT year and it was brilliant to see/catch up with him. It was also nice to hear his niece is due to start in September, if she is anything like him, I hope she ends up in my class! Tue other highlight was our head of maths teaching a year 6 logarithms and the pupil getting it!

The hardest thing I had to do this week was to inform some pupils they couldn’t do a level maths. These pupils had only got Cs at GCSE, and I think that in hindsight we should have never let them on in the first place. They had been allowed on in trial but had failed to reach the required standard on the test. I know that ultimately it is the best thing for them. They will all end up with better grades on their new courses than they would in maths, but it was still hard. I think we let them on thinking it was good to give them a chance, but we now know they’d have been better trying something else from the start. One to remember for next year then.

Also this week, I’ve been lucky enough to observe a couple of colleagues. One NQT with a class I had last year and one colleague who is at the same point in their career as I am. These lessons were both great to see and gave me things to take away and use.

The week ended quite difficultly, my final Friday lesson each week is with a particularly challenging year ten class, due to the hot weather they were harder to settle than usual and i had to call for the year manager. She is great and between us we ensured that no-one left without completing the work. It is time like that I am thankful that I’m lucky enough to be in a school with such good systems in place to deal with behaviour if it occurs.

Grading grids – an aid to relection

September 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Blimey, September seems to have flown by pretty quick. It seems like only yesterday I was filled with that new term excitement, but it’s nearing the end of the month already! That said, it also seems like I’ve done a humongous amount in the month too.

This year I have started a new role as KS5 coordinator, which also involves overseeing ks4 intervention and g&t pupils, and I am also an NQT mentor. This has all added up to a hectic but thoroughly enjoyable few weeks.

During the first week I observed my mentee in am informal coaching capacity. The lesson wasn’t graded, but when I printed out the proforma I noticed the schools grading grid in the pack. You know the type of thing, statements to assess the lesson against. If you haven’t seen one for lessons your bound to have seen one for uni assignments or btec marking.

I was looking at it and it occurred to me that this would be an excellent tool to aid reflection on my own practice. I have printed myself a copy and I have placed it in my planner. At the end of each day I open it and cast a glance over it while thinking about the lessons I’ve taught, reflecting on how they might have been graded, and how I could have moved them up to the next level.

I think this has been pretty helpful. It’s been good to keep these things at the forefront of my mind, and the repetition of reading the criteria has helped me get them really clear in my head. It has also helped me evaluate strategies I have been putting in place and their effectiveness.

The art of engagement

September 15, 2013 1 comment

Recently I’ve been to quite a few talks. These come in all shapes and sizes and can be thoroughly enjoyable or rather dull.

Yesterday morning my partner and I were at a university open day and we witnessed both extremes within the same talk, and it got me thinking about why there was such a contrast and how I could use this experience and apply it to the classroom.

First, let me tell you about the talk. It was an overview talk about a subject offered at the university and it branched into three specialities. The first lady spoke about the course as a whole and then her branch specifically. She was superb. All she was doing was reading prompts off a PowerPoint and elaborating on them, but she kept an audience numbering around 200 enthralled for well over twenty minutes. I was watching and analysing and I think the reasons she was so enthralling we’re: she knew her stuff; she was obviously enthusiastic about the course and loved it, she moved around, looked from person to person and incorporated an energy into her presentation and she included a couple of jokes. I think there’s a lot to be learned here. I think that these factors can be applied to classroom teaching. We should all know our stuff, be experts in our subjects. We should all be teaching stuff we love and are enthused by, we should all be putting our energy into lessons and we should try to make the odd joke too.

She handed over to a colleague who spoke briefly about his branch of the course. He read notes from a scrappy bit of a5 paper and basically just listed the names of places students may go to complete placements and said it was rather different to when he started in the seventies. He appeared disinterested, he spoke in a quite, slow, monotonous, voice. He ummed and erred and it was rather excruciating. He spoke for around 5 minutes, but it felt infinitely linger than the twenty minutes the first speaker had spoken for. I think the key points of not here are: failure to properly prepare can lead to a poor delivery. If you are disinterested at the front, the room WILL follow. And always try to speak load enough for everyone to hear, to keep dynamics in your voice and try to keep the umming and erring to a mibimum.

He then handed over (thankfully!) to another colleague who spoke about her branch of the course. She again spoke with enthusiasm, she didn’t use prompts but spoke clearly and concisely and had obviously really thought about what she wanted to say. This reinforced what I had taken from the first two speakers and I intend to keep these lessons in mind during planning and teaching.

Happy New (academic) Year

September 15, 2013 Leave a comment

So, we are two weeks down and this new year has already been filled with excitement, frustration, jokes, japes and everything else that goes with the back to school phase.

Starting back was a strange feeling for me, as I was torn between two conflicting sets emotions. The first being the buzz and excitement around a new school year. New challenges, a new role, New classes and the rest. In many ways I couldn’t wait to get back. These emotions were offset slightly by the fact I would be back at work so no longer able to spend all day with my partner and my 14 month year old daughter. But on the whole I was feeling positive about the year.

This time of year is strange, and tends to split the profession in two. There are those who get excited, like me, and those who use terms like “dreading it” who take to Facebook to whinge about the return to work. I find it strange that people with so much dread would stay in the profession and I get perplexed reading and hearing their comments.

These first two weeks have been tough, readjusting, and getting to grips with a new role, but I feel now I’m through them I’m ready to crack on. Ready to have some fun and inspire some new mathematicians!

I’ve set myself some goals. I want to ensure I put my all into all my lessons, to make sure the pace is there to enable good progress and to guarantee a variety of tasks to keep myself and the pupils thoroughly engaged. But I want to make sure that the content isn’t lost by “too many thrills”, I want to keep finding time to see other teachers to ensure my own practice is improving and to keep gaining ideas.

I have three crosscurricular projects in the pipeline from last year which I hope to pursue and I hope to incorporate quite a bit of reading time into my routine. There are many education books, and many maths books I wish to read, as well as a number of fiction books I’d like to get to too. And this is the main reason for the post, I would love to hear any suggestions of good books in the fields of education and/or maths. Please feel free to comment below. Also, any good blogs on the subject will be welcomed.

Happy New Year.

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