ITE – just one picture.

Tea

When I was growing up we lived not far from a well thought of Teacher Training College at Caerleon in South Wales. I harboured no desire whatsoever to become a teacher and had little or no interest in what went on there. I assumed it was mainly to do with learning to write nicely on the board. I think I must have been ahead of my time in my “philosophy”  because as far as I could see there would be nothing else to learn if you wanted to be a teacher.  “Just Tell ‘Em” I believe it is now called. Teachers were clever people, they knew things. All they had to do was tell others about these things e.g. dates in history, maps in geography or explain how to do things e.g. sums. Just tell the children what to do and they will do it and they will enjoy doing it. I did.  Sometimes the teachers from school went on training days and this led to exciting things like curved stitching in maths and Jackdaw packs in history. Life was very straightforward. Sometimes we even had student teachers who were so clever that they could teach science as well as the recorder.

I taught English as a Foreign Language for a year in Dakar Senegal. I was untrained but had classes of motivated adults, desperate to learn English and we had some hilarious times. There was a textbook. We followed it. I was a native speaker of English and who cared about my abominable board work. They thought I said one day that Joan of Arc was burned as a steak! Lots of laughing. I tied myself in knots teaching phrasal verbs. To cut up, to cut down. Easy. To get on a bus. To get off a bus. Easy. To get on with someone. To get off with someone! More laughing. Language really is fascinating.

Fast forward to the IoE (UCL) early eighties and my wonderful MFL PGCE tutors. If only I had known all that they taught me when I was trying to teach EFL…the rest is history and enough of me.

So why, I have been asking myself for some time, has the term PGCE tutor seemingly been used almost as a term of abuse by some Tweeters and Bloggers?

I decided that we needed some positive memories of ITE. So I sent out a tweet.

“I would love to hear some memories of things people found inspiring and replicable on their PGCE courses. Apparently only bad things happen.”

Now I know that the way you phrase a question will to a large extent govern the replies. But I am not a researcher and neither are some much louder voices on Twitter who ask a loaded question, get the answers they like and then hope that these may influence government policy. I am unashamed in saying that I just wanted some good news to share – particularly with ITE tutors whatever phase they teach and in whatever structure; HE PGCE, SCITT, undergraduate level, Schools Direct, Schools Direct Salaried, GTP…all were free to comment. I thought I might, if lucky, get about 25 replies. I deliberately avoided asking the wonderful #MFLtwitterati coordinated by @joedale as I know lots of them and they know me so I thought this might seem a bit overloaded in favour of MFL.

Well…I received, and in rapid time, over 150 replies including on the main thread and by DM. Overwhelming. All positive and all so warm and many extremely tender in talking about the level of gratitude they owe to ITE tutors, school based mentors and to the schools who let them make mistakes. And many showing such respect for the children and young people who have supported them along the way in their desire to get better.

I am not attempting deep analysis or data processing. That is not my forte. Just feel good factor for me. Call me an intellectual lightweight but I leave the hard stuff to the experts.

ITE was only ever a part of my professional life and I stuck to what I know – primary and secondary languages. This is why I have, I think, a more detached view and at first did not realise that anyone was referring to me when they vilified PGCE tutors. Moi? What did and continues to strike to me is that ITE people spend so much more time than we would ever know out of hours in developing teachers – working with schools, counselling trainees, their own research, evenings spent counselling trainees and mentors by phone and email from home. Early morning coffees with struggling trainees, wobbly trainees, trainees supporting young families or with sick parents, trainees who have just lost their confidence a bit. And all the time maintaining a professional and adult relationship with those in their charge. As for the diplomacy involved – ITE tutors could offer training to the UN.

At the heart of it all is subject knowledge, phase expertise, knowledge of the deeper issues of education and society and in abundance humanity and emotional intelligence. And of course established, professional, open and supportive relationships between ITE institutions and schools.

Thank you to the following from me: David Harris, MFL lecturer, IoE (now UCL) Peter Saunders, MFL lecturer and wonderful colleague and partner in crime at Roehampton University. Sue Short – the  most decent and the most creative MFL person to work with at Roehampton University. Ali Messer, Head of Secondary PGCE at Roehampton University with whom I had many a run-in about structures but never about values and who so often brought me a coffee when I was looking grumpy, Marilyn Holness at Roehampton who despite being so senior and so clever was always up for a laugh. And finally Jane Jones MFL PGCE  at Kings College London – simply the best. There are many, many more…sorry to the anonymous. You are no less highly thought of.

And thank you to the marvellous @sdupp for putting in to one picture so many words

I cannot share all the replies but here are some. I could have used them all and have saved them all if anyone is interested. What is significant for me is that they do not focus solely on activities but on subject knowledge, underpinning principles of education, values and impact. Thank you everyone who contributed.  Read them all at once. Read them a few at a time. It’s up to you but above all just feel good. And sorry about the formatting in places but sometimes ok just has to be good enough. and I need to share this before it is old news.

So in no particular order…

My SCITT training SEND mentor was inspirational – he taught me that the best teaching comes from getting it wrong sometimes. Learn always.

B.Ed instilled imp of giving children voice. Morag Styles taught this through poetry -amazing lecturer & beautiful results using her methods.

If it weren’t for the PGCE, I’d be a really rubbish teacher. It wasn’t until I got my first job that I had to perform for tick lists.

Best thing about PGCE was having the space to reflect at uni with people who’d been through the exact same thing. I trained at Sunderland.

My first mentor was the best. Gave critique in a positive way from which you grow from and gave me so much that I use in my teaching

Mine was absolutely brilliant at Roehampton with Peter Saunders (2002) Focus on creative ideas, behaviour support…and so much more

My tutor the late Barry Canham was inspirational. Honed my skills thru a shared passion for Spanish/LatAm music. Good guitarist too!

Dad died during PGCE. Tutor Alison Taylor (hero) supported in dark days & even got me sharing my ‘lively learning’ ideas with 80 teachers!

Really enjoyed (after the fact) being left with a drama studio for a science lesson with one hour notice. Drama teacher & I thrashed out great lesson.

Went on residential with Y6 placement class. 1st time at the sea or sleep in a bed for some of the kids. Shaped every teaching encounter since.

I loved Sussex_ITE Such a range of support. Our History tutor/course Director utterly inspiring with content, style, humour, significance.  

I had the most amazing #music course from Rod Paton at West Sussex Institute of HE.

I did team teaching with an English PGCE who taught same class. So great to plan together and teach two X-curricular lessons.   PGCE secondary maths at Chichester. Fab experience. Learned that attitude is everything. Adrian Pinel great tutor. Helped with MA too.

The Rose and Crown, Knights Hill, next to our hostel, proud of successes, putting perceived failures into perspective.The start of lifelong CPD

It was a great privilege and helped crystalise the understanding of what I was teaching for. Educating for fairness ever since.
She (the mentor) never realised I was struggling as much as I was. She just kept being kind and firm and resolute. Exactly what I didn’t know I needed.
Team teaching with another student. Planning together and then observing the impact – brilliant learning experience.
I had a great PGCE year at Newcastle University in the late 80s. David Westgate was the MFL tutor, he was excellent. Good placements too, with some amazing teachers. Owe them so much.
Mine was great, learned loads about delivering English knowledge and skills, great placements too. 2007/8
I loved being able to discuss lessons with a wide variety of fellow trainees all at different schools with diff experience
Visit to Linden Lodge school. Inspiring. (Linden Lodge is a school for visually impaired pupils 2 – 19 in Wandsworth)
Lots of facilitated discussion – and sometimes friendly disagreement! – amongst the cohort. Forced me to sharpen my sense of purpose
It’s where I met my wife so they’re not all bad!

Great mentoring and inspiration 2. At time great thinking and practice 3. Fieldwork research to Conwy and battlefields

We did a whoosh (performance) of The Tempest as a class seeing what active learning strategies could do for kids studying shakespeare

Having my ideas/resources taken seriously as well as giving some brilliant advice and ideas. Nothing was ever off limits.

I had heard so many horror stories about PGCEs before applying. I’m still grateful to this day that I listened to the positive!

It inspired me to become an SEN teacher! Without that freedom to explore my interests I might not have done it.
The opportunity to deliver CPD to whole staff cohort whilst on my second placement. One of the most daunting, yet valuable things I’ve done. Great experience that has helped me enormously in my albeit short teaching career so far
Loved my BEd at Nottingham Trent.. Inspired me and gave me my ed philosophy…

My tutor Patrick McCormack, quietly instructive and supportive. Museums and Galleries as a resource in education specialism. Fabulous year.

Taught in quite a challenging school in my first placement. Was dreading it. Turned out to the making of me

Mine was great. Geoff Hayward made me think: challenged loads of preconceptions about science ed & education generally

I had a wonderful time . Brilliant tutors (inc Andy Hudson – where is he now?) and schools that broadened my mind and experience.

An induction into the pure and unadulterated love for physics education. There are too many things to name but I’m a better teacher …because I have what feels like the continuing  support of the camp pgce. People like Mark, James and showed me different facets of what is a good person and teacher.

Great mentoring from Ros Ashby, Adrian Berger and Stuart Foster at .

Primary PGCE at Goldsmiths 10 years ago was so creative, lots of practical knowledge and support, and rigorous testing of our literacy and numeracy skills.

Inspirational teachers, great ideas, confidence boosters, critical thinkers, reflective practitioners, cheerleaders for one another, still great friends!

The importance of underpinning my teaching with theory. Thanks !
Have to say I’m grateful for mine. Exposure to bold intellects and outstanding classroom practitioners. Gave me the confidence to teach…

Would love to describe the occasional inanity that there was for you, but that would be cheap.

My tutor was the wonderful Barry Jones at Homerton who made every lesson magic, also Ann Swarbrick came and did great sessions

I loved my PGCE. I enjoyed the reading esp & we were expected to undertake quality research. Met lovely people & no daft tasks at all.

Was challenging/hard work. Big emphasis on subject knowledge & addressing gaps. Broadened my reading & knowledge of lit from other cultures.

Having my creativity encouraged. When will I get the time to do a 5-lesson medieval French l literature project with SEN year 7s again? It inspired me to become an SEN teacher! Without that freedom to explore my interests I might not have done it.

Learning is not linear & differentiation includes ensuring the students

I really enjoyed mine – having the space to try risks/ideas I’d seen on Twitter & felt supported by every1, even in a non-specialist dept.

At IOE early 80s. Gave me a confident voice, taught me to analyse effectiveness and a placement at the BM! It was the best start possible.

Visiting places of worship for different faiths in London as part of our enrichment half term brilliant experience. Fab at Chester 2004

Being able to spend time understanding pedagogy behind teaching was also inspiring. Thinking about how to help students learn effectively. 

Inspired by Jenny Henderson at Sheffield Uni 91/92. -1st observation feedback “I saw you set your jaw and knew you could do it”. Still counts

My PGCE was eons ago but it was a great year! Ian Gathercole & Elis Lazarus were fab tutors

My PGCE was one of the best educational experiences of my life

Continue reading “ITE – just one picture.”

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New funding for MFL – second hand fairy dust

 

So the present Government has decided that we need more MFL teachers in secondary schools.

So in their wisdom they throw some money at the problem. Just to whet your appetite..

“As a lead school, you can apply for up to £30,000 funding for teacher subject specialism training in MFL. This can help you address workforce challenges to support the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).”

But please click on this link. Buyer beware.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/teacher-subject-specialism-training-funding-for-schools#modern-foreign-languages-mfl

Good idea you may think. Let me just remind anyone who is interested that this is a crazy case not just of reinventing the wheel, but trying to fit high end cars with bicycle wheels and just for good measure puncturing them before they are tested!

It is very hard to learn a language to such a level that you feel confident and competent to teach it in Key Stage 3 and or to GCSE. Let’s not involve ourselves with A level just yet..

Many will agree that even if you learn the rules of the language – grammar, vocabulary and the rules of pronunciation – to teach it with confidence is a very tall order. I think most of us would agree that in order to feel really confident in front of a class you need to have spent some substantial time in a country where the language is spoken.

We know that post University this can prove impossible once people have career and family commitments. So what do we do? How do we teach a language to adults to ensure that they can then teach it at KS3 and KS4?

It is a problem that successive Governments have grappled with. And frankly the grappling has got us nowhere. Why? Not because it cannot be done, given the right conditions but because Ministers and those who advise the DFE just do not listen and constantly want shiny new toys. They refuse to look at what has gone before and build on the past.

I do know a little of that on which I pontificate – for once. For 2 years I taught the Subject Knowledge Enhancement course in French for trained and qualified Spanish and German teachers at UCL Institute of Education. These teachers were the best groups imaginable as you can see – all linguists, passionate about languages, experts in MFL pedagogy and self -selected. They were a joy to teach. But even they found it difficult to sustain momentum when faced with parents’ evenings, extra marking, poorly children, lots of travel on dark cold evenings and rainy Saturday mornings. In my opinion these initiatives often do not work simply because teachers are too tired to learn a language after school, on the odd Inset day here and there or during their holidays.

But anyway the present Government then cut the funding for SKE courses. Clearly wanted something new.

My main concern though is that in last few years the following initiatives were funded at great expense through public monies and through the DFE by firstly Labour, followed by ConDems and most recently Conservative administrations

  1. Linguistic Upskilling modules and courses for primary teachers in French, German and Spanish
  2. Language Improvement courses for primary teachers in French, German and Spanish
  3. Language Improvement through TSAs (Teaching School Alliances)
  4. Language Improvement through LSEF (London Mayor’s Fund)

1 and 2 were fully adaptable for secondary teachers , especially reasonable linguists wanting to improve their language skills. They were written in forensic detail, and widely trialled and evaluated. National training conferences, a carefully worked out training trainers’ model and huge excitement.

But they hardly saw the light of day! Because the ConDems closed CILT –  the National Centre for Languages and sold it – I believe – for a song to CFBT who received a massive £3.5 million as a result of a successful bid to the DFE to continue the work as part of a programme in working with TSAs. Actually the incoming Government we were told told CFBT that it should forget about the original Linguistic Upskilling modules as they were written under Labour…spiteful? foolish? a scandalous waste of public monies. Not to mention the time we wasted in changing logos and nomenclature.

So the former CILT team at CFBT produced a fantastic set of even better modules that could be used for improving the language skills of both primary and secondary teachers. Again widely trialled, evaluated and very much valued by teachers. But just as these were launched CFBT decided that actually they were not that keen on keeping the CILT as the funding from the Bid had come to an end. So these modules were mothballed. What a waste!

And let’s not forget about Specialist Language Colleges who also had a remit to develop the language skills of their staff. Those seem almost to have been forgotten.

And now we have another knee jerk reaction. 

Based on my experience I have some questions

  • Who will write the materials to ensure coherent national or even regional training?
  • Who will do the training?
  • Will there be supply cover for trainers and teachers to be trained?
  • Who will ensure quality and consistency of training and resources?
  • How many hours will it take to improve teachers’ skills?
  • Will there be any residential periods abroad? If so at what time of year? Term time or school holidays?
  • Who will ensure that numbers trained match regional/national needs?
  • What kind of level are teachers supposed to reach? Common European Framework would suggest at least B2 as in all other European countries.

So why not look again at these materials and programmes? Hardly used and in mint condition. Because someone, somewhere does not like what has gone before as it was not dreamed up and produced by them. Much better to waste oodles of money in a period of economic austerity by starting all over again.

Based on experience of working with MFL teachers at all levels I would say that this latest scheme may well undermine the underpinning philosophy of good MFL teaching that the “Target Language should be the main means of communication in the classroom.” Just as we all acquire our mother tongue by listening, repeating, manipulating, making mistakes, gaining confidence and self -correcting, our learners need a learning environment that allows them to grow in this way. I have seen many lessons where if the teacher does not feel confident in speaking the language then they revert to talking about the language in English and explaining in far too much detail and for far too long “the rules.” Pupils get little chance to practise and play with language as the teacher does not/can not demonstrate with confidence and accuracy just what it takes to speak in this funny tongue!

One last question: how long would it take a clarinet teacher to learn and teach the violin?

Steve Smith – one of my favourite bloggers gives an excellent outline of many other concerns here. Please read.

 

http://frenchteachernet.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/dfe-desperate-for-language-teachers.html

 

 

 

And the floodgates opened…

A couple of weeks ago I spotted a Tweet in which I was interested. It contained a reference to a blog describing a visit to a school. Of course I read with interest – I have visited and worked with schools all over the country and continue to do so – albeit and very much from choice and family commitments – on a reduced scale. The blog started well enough and quite rightly praised what the writer saw as the good things in the school they had visited. But it took an interesting turn. Many of you will know what I am referring to. I gave what I was confident was sound advice to an NQT about how to conduct himself/herself professionally  on-line in order to protect him/her from giving too much information that would allow him/her and their current school to be identified. And the floodgates opened…

I have long felt that Twitter was becoming increasingly adversarial but I guess like so many others it was only when it got to me that I realised how much.

I found myself at the receiving end of some very unpleasant on-line abuse both on Twitter and subsequently on a well read blog.

I will not rehearse what happened next. Many of you are aware of this.

Of course it was hurtful and of course I wanted to reply and defend my actions but as I used to say to NQTs and trainees – remember you are the adult in the room! I needed to be emotionally strong and professionally mature.

The consequences of deciding to follow through my concerns have resulted in a rapid learning spurt. It has taken me time, energy and tenacity. But it has been well worth it. I am fortunate that I have that time and that tenacity. But for those who don’t – and I hope this doesn’t sound pompous or patronising – I believe it is worth sharing what I have learnt. Bear in mind. I am not a lawyer so please do not treat this as the definitive version of what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation. It is just one person’s attempts to shed some light on an area that is, from discussions I have had of late, causing quite some concern. The research I have done and the guidance that I am about to share are aimed at everyone who tweets or blogs; at those who feel they may be the victim of unacceptable comments and at those who may just be feeling that saying something on-line protects them from libel and defamation laws.

There are indisputable points enshrined in law. There are no Twitter “untouchables” or “beyond the law” bloggers. I am sure that many people with far more internet knowledge than me have written better or more on this subject but I am trying to use a language and a context that EduTwitter people will feel comfortable with. My aim is not to make people frightened of tweeting or blogging or to close down anyone’s right to freedom of speech. I am simply saying be careful what you write. It is common sense. Do not abuse people,  do not tell lies about them, make sure you know what you are talking about if you are going to get involved in an on-line discussion or blog. If you are going to retweet someone else’s blog make sure that it does not contain offensive language in the most recent or previous blogs or use such words as “incompetence” about fellow professionals or indeed anyone. And be careful how you describe pupils. They may seem to be anonymous at the time of writing but they are all someone’s son or daughter. Their parents do not send them to school to be written about publicly in derogatory terms.

What goes on-line, stays on-line. I have deliberately not mentioned whether or not you need to inform your employer if you are intending to take legal action. You will need to seek further advice on this from your Trade Union representative or a solicitor. I will not work beyond my comfort zone and risk giving the wrong advice. All I will say is that before entering into the world of EduTwitter it is a good idea to read and understand your employer’s code of professional conduct.

I have had many, many emails and DMs from people about this matter – most of whom I have never met and I have been overwhelmed by kindness and support. One message in particular sticks in my mind.

‘I just know there’s a very dark side to edu twitter sometimes and it’s very worrying what things people say when they think they have anonymity. “Free speech” does not mean “free slander” or “free defamation”‘

I will not name the person except to say that I shall always be grateful to her for her wise words and to many others for taking the time to make contact.

First steps

Stay calm. Do not respond to the abusive comments. Maintain a dignified silence – hard as this may be when you may be feeling a little less than dignified. Do not provoke the abuser or give them more air time. Pull out of the conversation the minute this changes from being a contentious but perfectly acceptable debate to abuse or threats against you.

Ask yourself if these people, who you have probably never met, would be saying these same things to your face?

Keep screen shots – quick, easy and necessary

Storify your tweets during the period you wish to report or seek legal guidance on – again quick, easy and necessary

Report the matter to Twitter.

At the same time…

If you feel that this abuse/these comments constitute a threat to you that may threaten your reputation or your livelihood contact the Citizens Advice Bureau as soon as you can. They are extremely knowledgeable and will indicate what you could do next. They will not give legal advice. They will advise you if the abuse is likely to be libellous, defamation of character or a hate crime. But they cannot give you a definitive answer. That is not their role.

If it is a hate crime you must contact your local police.

Remember there is a legal definition of a hate crime.

“A hate crime (also known as a bias-motivated crime) is a prejudice-motivated crime, usually violent, which occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership (or perceived membership) in a certain social group. … A hate crime law is a law intended to deter bias-motivated violence.”

CAB will advise you on contacting a solicitor.

At this point most people will think “how much is all this going to cost me?” and “how stressful will it be?” The second one I cannot answer at all or indeed the first but the following may help.

There are specialist solicitors on line who are extremely skilled in handling these matters who offer free telephone advice and will then accept to look at your case for a modest fee. But you must know what you want to achieve e.g. that the blogger/tweeter removes the lies or accusations and or issues a public apology. Check out on-line legal experts’ credentials of course. Or see a local solicitor.

You will be given advice by the legal experts on what you need to do next. You can pull out at any point and this may have cost you little or nothing if you seek help on-line or a modest fee, which you can confirm in advance, with a local solicitor.

Make sure you have a full history of the tweets concerned and/or the blog including comments in which you feature. The solicitor will quite rightly go through these forensically. What you have written will also be open to scrutiny.

Before I embarked on any of this I went onto the National Crime Agency website. This provided excellent advice links that confirm that on-line comments in Tweets and Blogs are subject to the same libel law as anything that appears in writing anywhere else.

I joined Twitter to share, to challenge,  to be challenged, to listen, to learn, to change my mind, to laugh… It is a great place to be – just like most workplaces. Let’s keep it welcome for all and to all. Let’s behave as mature professionals who do not go round in gangs. I am more than happy for people to DM me if you feel that you might like to express your views in private.

The best starting point is here – and will answer most of the questions that many of us have been asking. I have cut and pasted below the most important bits of the article just in case anyone has problems with the links. If you do just copy into your browser. It is well worth the effort.

http://www.getsafeonline.org/social-networking/blogging/

The Risks

Get started…

  • JNever disclose private information when blogging.
  • Remember that what goes online stays online.

See also…

Social Networking

A great way to stay in touch. Make sure it’s safe and secure.

  • Your details could be discovered even if you blog under an assumed name, or anonymously. For example, blogs that are stored outside the EU may not be covered by the same data protection or privacy regulations we enjoy in the UK.
  • You might regret later, something that you blog about. For example, you may lose your job or fail an interview because of embarrassing posts, or upset a friend, relative or loved one.
  • Blogs are subject to libel law. Posting something that is untrue about an individual or organisation could incur serious penalties.
  • Remember – what you post online stays online … anything you post remains in the public domain and accessible indefinitely. Even if you subsequently delete the post, it may have been cached in a search engine or internet archive, or in a company server.
  • You may think you have a small audience, but blogs are public and it is very easy for people to find information on them via search engines.
  • The ‘comment’ feature present on many blogs could be exploited by spammers including links to websites they are promoting, cyber-criminals including links to fraudulent websites, or people using abusive or threatening language.
  • Children unwittingly revealing personal information or posting photographs of themselves.

Safe Blogging

  • If you want your blog to be public, disclose only what you want everyone on the Internet to know. Otherwise, keep your blog private.
  • Periodically review who has access to your site and make changes if necessary.
  • Keep details that identify you only to yourself and trusted people.
  • Do not post confidential information that might be used to steal your identity such as credit card numbers, passport details or home address.
  • Consider using an assumed name if you wish to keep your identity secret for personal safety, political reasons or security of employment.
  • Be careful what information you disclose such as your address, school, place of work or birthday.
  • Be careful about the photos you post as they may reveal things about you that you would rather keep private.
  • Be careful about what private feelings you share in your blog.
  • Be aware of what friends blog about you, or write in comments on your blog, particularly about your personal details and activities.
  • Be cautious about meeting in person someone you only know through blogging.
  • Ensure that children are aware of the dangers of blogging to a public audience.
  • If you are new to blogging, start cautiously. Understand the features of the software you use and how the blogging community (the ‘blogosphere’) works, including how to filter comments.
  • Do not post anything that may cause you embarrassment at a later date.

 

 

 

And the floodgates opened…

A couple of weeks ago I spotted a Tweet in which I was interested. It contained a reference to a blog describing a visit to a school. Of course I read with interest – I have visited and worked with schools all over the country and continue to do so – albeit and very much from choice and family commitments – on a reduced scale. The blog started well enough and quite rightly praised what the writer saw as the good things in the school they had visited. But it took an interesting turn. Many of you will know what I am referring to. I gave what I was confident was sound advice to an NQT about how to conduct himself/herself professionally  on-line in order to protect him/her from giving too much information that would allow him/her and their current school to be identified. And the floodgates opened…

I have long felt that Twitter was becoming increasingly adversarial but I guess like so many others it was only when it got to me that I realised how much.

I found myself at the receiving end of some very unpleasant on-line abuse both on Twitter and subsequently on a well read blog.

I will not rehearse what happened next. Many of you are aware of this.

Of course it was hurtful and of course I wanted to reply and defend my actions but as I used to say to NQTs and trainees – remember you are the adult in the room! I needed to be emotionally strong and professionally mature.

The consequences of deciding to follow through my concerns have resulted in a rapid learning spurt. It has taken me time, energy and tenacity. But it has been well worth it. I am fortunate that I have that time and that tenacity. But for those who don’t – and I hope this doesn’t sound pompous or patronising – I believe it is worth sharing what I have learnt. Bear in mind. I am not a lawyer so please do not treat this as the definitive version of what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation. It is just one person’s attempts to shed some light on an area that is, from discussions I have had of late, causing quite some concern. The research I have done and the guidance that I am about to share are aimed at everyone who tweets or blogs; at those who feel they may be the victim of unacceptable comments and at those who may just be feeling that saying something on-line protects them from libel and defamation laws.

There are indisputable points enshrined in law. There are no Twitter “untouchables” or “beyond the law” bloggers. I am sure that many people with far more internet knowledge than me have written better or more on this subject but I am trying to use a language and a context that EduTwitter people will feel comfortable with. My aim is not to make people frightened of tweeting or blogging or to close down anyone’s right to freedom of speech. I am simply saying be careful what you write. It is common sense. Do not abuse people,  do not tell lies about them, make sure you know what you are talking about if you are going to get involved in an on-line discussion or blog. If you are going to retweet someone else’s blog make sure that it does not contain offensive language in the most recent or previous blogs or use such words as “incompetence” about fellow professionals or indeed anyone. And be careful how you describe pupils. They may seem to be anonymous at the time of writing but they are all someone’s son or daughter. Their parents do not send them to school to be written about publicly in derogatory terms.

What goes on-line, stays on-line. I have deliberately not mentioned whether or not you need to inform your employer if you are intending to take legal action. You will need to seek further advice on this from your Trade Union representative or a solicitor. I will not work beyond my comfort zone and risk giving the wrong advice. All I will say is that before entering into the world of EduTwitter it is a good idea to read and understand your employer’s code of professional conduct.

I have had many, many emails and DMs from people about this matter – most of whom I have never met and I have been overwhelmed by kindness and support. One message in particular sticks in my mind.

‘I just know there’s a very dark side to edu twitter sometimes and it’s very worrying what things people say when they think they have anonymity. “Free speech” does not mean “free slander” or “free defamation”‘

I will not name the person except to say that I shall always be grateful to her for her wise words and to many others for taking the time to make contact.

First steps

Stay calm. Do not respond to the abusive comments. Maintain a dignified silence – hard as this may be when you may be feeling a little less than dignified. Do not provoke the abuser or give them more air time. Pull out of the conversation the minute this changes from being a contentious but perfectly acceptable debate to abuse or threats against you.

Ask yourself if these people, who you have probably never met, would be saying these same things to your face?

Keep screen shots – quick, easy and necessary

Storify your tweets during the period you wish to report or seek legal guidance on – again quick, easy and necessary

Report the matter to Twitter.

At the same time…

If you feel that this abuse/these comments constitute a threat to you that may threaten your reputation or your livelihood contact the Citizens Advice Bureau as soon as you can. They are extremely knowledgeable and will indicate what you could do next. They will not give legal advice. They will advise you if the abuse is likely to be libellous, defamation of character or a hate crime. But they cannot give you a definitive answer. That is not their role.

If it is a hate crime you must contact your local police.

Remember there is a legal definition of a hate crime.

“A hate crime (also known as a bias-motivated crime) is a prejudice-motivated crime, usually violent, which occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership (or perceived membership) in a certain social group. … A hate crime law is a law intended to deter bias-motivated violence.”

CBA will advise you on contacting a solicitor.

At this point most people will think “how much is all this going to cost me?” and “how stressful will it be?” The second one I cannot answer at all or indeed the first but the following may help.

There are specialist solicitors on line who are extremely skilled in handling these matters who offer free telephone advice and will then accept to look at your case for a modest fee. But you must know what you want to achieve e.g. that the blogger/tweeter removes the lies or accusations and or issues a public apology. Check out on-line legal experts’ credentials of course. Or see a local solicitor.

You will be given advice by the legal experts on what you need to do next. You can pull out at any point and this may have cost you little or nothing if you seek help on-line or a modest fee, which you can confirm in advance, with a local solicitor.

Make sure you have a full history of the tweets concerned and/or the blog including comments in which you feature. The solicitor will quite rightly go through these forensically. What you have written will also be open to scrutiny.

Before I embarked on any of this I went onto the National Crime Agency website. This provided excellent advice links that confirm that on-line comments in Tweets and Blogs are subject to the same libel law as anything that appears in writing anywhere else.

I joined Twitter to share, to challenge,  to be challenged, to listen, to learn, to change my mind, to laugh… It is a great place to be – just like most workplaces. Let’s keep it welcome for all and to all. Let’s behave as mature professionals who do not go round in gangs. I am more than happy for people to DM me if you feel that you might like to express your views in private.

The best starting point is here – and will answer most of the questions that many of us have been asking. I have cut and pasted below the most important bits of the article just in case anyone has problems with the links. If you do just copy into your browser. It is well worth the effort.

http://www.getsafeonline.org/social-networking/blogging/

The Risks

Get started…

  • JNever disclose private information when blogging.
  • Remember that what goes online stays online.

See also…

Social Networking
A great way to stay in touch. Make sure it’s safe and secure.

  • Your details could be discovered even if you blog under an assumed name, or anonymously. For example, blogs that are stored outside the EU may not be covered by the same data protection or privacy regulations we enjoy in the UK.
  • You might regret later, something that you blog about. For example, you may lose your job or fail an interview because of embarrassing posts, or upset a friend, relative or loved one.
  • Blogs are subject to libel law. Posting something that is untrue about an individual or organisation could incur serious penalties.
  • Remember – what you post online stays online … anything you post remains in the public domain and accessible indefinitely. Even if you subsequently delete the post, it may have been cached in a search engine or internet archive, or in a company server.
  • You may think you have a small audience, but blogs are public and it is very easy for people to find information on them via search engines.
  • The ‘comment’ feature present on many blogs could be exploited by spammers including links to websites they are promoting, cyber-criminals including links to fraudulent websites, or people using abusive or threatening language.
  • Children unwittingly revealing personal information or posting photographs of themselves.

Safe Blogging

  • If you want your blog to be public, disclose only what you want everyone on the Internet to know. Otherwise, keep your blog private.
  • Periodically review who has access to your site and make changes if necessary.
  • Keep details that identify you only to yourself and trusted people.
  • Do not post confidential information that might be used to steal your identity such as credit card numbers, passport details or home address.
  • Consider using an assumed name if you wish to keep your identity secret for personal safety, political reasons or security of employment.
  • Be careful what information you disclose such as your address, school, place of work or birthday.
  • Be careful about the photos you post as they may reveal things about you that you would rather keep private.
  • Be careful about what private feelings you share in your blog.
  • Be aware of what friends blog about you, or write in comments on your blog, particularly about your personal details and activities.
  • Be cautious about meeting in person someone you only know through blogging.
  • Ensure that children are aware of the dangers of blogging to a public audience.
  • If you are new to blogging, start cautiously. Understand the features of the software you use and how the blogging community (the ‘blogosphere’) works, including how to filter comments.
  • Do not post anything that may cause you embarrassment at a later date.

 

 

 

New funding for MFL – second hand fairy dust

 

So the present Government has decided that we need more MFL teachers in secondary schools.

So in their wisdom they throw some money at the problem. Just to whet your appetite..

“As a lead school, you can apply for up to £30,000 funding for teacher subject specialism training in MFL. This can help you address workforce challenges to support the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).”

But please click on this link. Buyer beware.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/teacher-subject-specialism-training-funding-for-schools#modern-foreign-languages-mfl

Good idea you may think. Let me just remind anyone who is interested that this is a crazy case not just of reinventing the wheel, but trying to fit high end cars with bicycle wheels and just for good measure puncturing them before they are tested!

It is very hard to learn a language to such a level that you feel confident and competent to teach it in Key Stage 3 and or to GCSE. Let’s not involve ourselves with A level just yet..

Many will agree that even if you learn the rules of the language – grammar, vocabulary and the rules of pronunciation – to teach it with confidence is a very tall order. I think most of us would agree that in order to feel really confident in front of a class you need to have spent some substantial time in a country where the language is spoken.

We know that post University this can prove impossible once people have career and family commitments. So what do we do? How do we teach a language to adults to ensure that they can then teach it at KS3 and KS4?

It is a problem that successive Governments have grappled with. And frankly the grappling has got us nowhere. Why? Not because it cannot be done, given the right conditions but because Ministers and those who advise the DFE just do not listen and constantly want shiny new toys. They refuse to look at what has gone before and build on the past.

I do know a little of that on which I pontificate – for once. For 2 years I taught the Subject Knowledge Enhancement course in French for trained and qualified Spanish and German teachers at UCL Institute of Education. These teachers were the best groups imaginable as you can see – all linguists, passionate about languages, experts in MFL pedagogy and self -selected. They were a joy to teach. But even they found it difficult to sustain momentum when faced with parents’ evenings, extra marking, poorly children, lots of travel on dark cold evenings and rainy Saturday mornings. In my opinion these initiatives often do not work simply because teachers are too tired to learn a language after school, on the odd Inset day here and there or during their holidays.

But anyway the present Government then cut the funding for SKE courses. Clearly wanted something new.

My main concern though is that in last few years the following initiatives were funded at great expense through public monies and through the DFE by firstly Labour, followed by ConDems and most recently Conservative administrations

  1. Linguistic Upskilling modules and courses for primary teachers in French, German and Spanish
  2. Language Improvement courses for primary teachers in French, German and Spanish
  3. Language Improvement through TSAs (Teaching School Alliances)
  4. Language Improvement through LSEF (London Mayor’s Fund)

1 and 2 were fully adaptable for secondary teachers , especially reasonable linguists wanting to improve their language skills. They were written in forensic detail, and widely trialled and evaluated. National training conferences, a carefully worked out training trainers’ model and huge excitement.

But they hardly saw the light of day! Because the ConDems closed CILT –  the National Centre for Languages and sold it – I believe – for a song to CFBT who received a massive £3.5 million as a result of a successful bid to the DFE to continue the work as part of a programme in working with TSAs. Actually the incoming Government we were told told CFBT that it should forget about the original Linguistic Upskilling modules as they were written under Labour…spiteful? foolish? a scandalous waste of public monies. Not to mention the time we wasted in changing logos and nomenclature.

So the former CILT team at CFBT produced a fantastic set of even better modules that could be used for improving the language skills of both primary and secondary teachers. Again widely trialled, evaluated and very much valued by teachers. But just as these were launched CFBT decided that actually they were not that keen on keeping the CILT as the funding from the Bid had come to an end. So these modules were mothballed. What a waste!

And let’s not forget about Specialist Language Colleges who also had a remit to develop the language skills of their staff. Those seem almost to have been forgotten.

And now we have another knee jerk reaction. 

Based on my experience I have some questions

  • Who will write the materials to ensure coherent national or even regional training?
  • Who will do the training?
  • Will there be supply cover for trainers and teachers to be trained?
  • Who will ensure quality and consistency of training and resources?
  • How many hours will it take to improve teachers’ skills?
  • Will there be any residential periods abroad? If so at what time of year? Term time or school holidays?
  • Who will ensure that numbers trained match regional/national needs?
  • What kind of level are teachers supposed to reach? Common European Framework would suggest at least B2 as in all other European countries.

So why not look again at these materials and programmes? Hardly used and in mint condition. Because someone, somewhere does not like what has gone before as it was not dreamed up and produced by them. Much better to waste oodles of money in a period of economic austerity by starting all over again.

Based on experience of working with MFL teachers at all levels I would say that this latest scheme may well undermine the underpinning philosophy of good MFL teaching that the “Target Language should be the main means of communication in the classroom.” Just as we all acquire our mother tongue by listening, repeating, manipulating, making mistakes, gaining confidence and self -correcting, our learners need a learning environment that allows them to grow in this way. I have seen many lessons where if the teacher does not feel confident in speaking the language then they revert to talking about the language in English and explaining in far too much detail and for far too long “the rules.” Pupils get little chance to practise and play with language as the teacher does not/can not demonstrate with confidence and accuracy just what it takes to speak in this funny tongue!

One last question: how long would it take a clarinet teacher to learn and teach the violin?

Steve Smith – one of my favourite bloggers gives an excellent outline of many other concerns here. Please read.

 

http://frenchteachernet.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/dfe-desperate-for-language-teachers.html

 

 

 

Fact or fiction? My response to John Bald

I read with interest this article and can do other than respond to John’s sweeping and mistaken assertions. I comment with confidence and I hope knowledge and expertise on the MFL component of this article. Maybe others more knowledgeable than me would like to comment on the phonics component? I am genuinely interested.

My comments and questions to John are in bold – just in case there is any confusion about who is saying what!

Shortly after I started teaching, in the early seventies, a deputy head told me, “You become a teacher in order to change society.”  I had in fact become a teacher, in a serious way, in order to teach people to read, after finding that a pupil who had bunked off my lesson couldn’t read, and that nobody was doing anything about it. The deputy’s comment, though, sums up the main difference between Conservative teachers and our opponents. We are interested in teaching people and maximising potential, while they want to mould society in an image they have created.

Nonsense. This is unfounded; it is a sweeping generalisation that is hugely insulting to thousands of teachers who are not Conservatives

Most are to the left of what might still be called mainstream Labour, and, like Michael Rosen, support Corbyn.

Once again nonsense! How can you know this? Where is the evidence? I do not support Corbyn and know few teachers who do.

His Momentum organisation, in effect a rebrand of Militant, is reminiscent of many such networks in education, including a particularly sinister one called “The Campaign to Change Education Through Teacher Training,” of which more in a later piece. Anyone wishing to follow this up in the meantime should read Professor Geoff Whitty’s presidential address to the British Educational Research Association from 2005, downloadable here.

Totally mischievous  misinterpretation  of Geoff Whitty’s work.

Please explain what you mean by “sinister” and provide us with evidence not hearsay.

The problem is endemic across the English-speaking world.  Professor Whitty has been influential in Australia and was this year awarded a fellowship of the American Educational Research Association. From our viewpoint, his effect on education, like that of the Institute over which he presided, is negative. Dr Colin Christie is currently its head of PGCE in languages. This link to his approach to teaching foreign languages shows what I see as basic misconceptions of the process of language learning. The piece contains a link to his thesis.

Dr Christie is a highly respected academic who has an excellent record in teaching languages in challenging schools, achieving excellent academic results from children and in raising standards. He is widely regarded as an inspirational and highly practical teacher trainer who understands schools, teachers and children and as a profound and clear thinker. His track record is second to none at all levels. Your link is another wilful misinterpretation of his work. Maybe you would like to compare Colin’s achievements with your own track record of getting excellent results in whole class teaching and in successful senior leadership and management experience in schools and HE?

I recently gave on Conservative Home an account of my alternative, which involves clearing the fog, presenting things in a way that children understand from the beginning, and then practising. I had helped a teacher with a reading problem in her class, and she asked me if I could help her daughter, who was struggling with GCSE French. Here is a brief note of what happened:

A bright pupil was being “taught” French by the current method of exposing her and her classmates to language they didn’t understand, having them copy things out, and making them try to learn everything parrot fashion. These practices could be calculated to prevent the formation of neural connections, and hence understanding. They were very effective – this bright young person was in distress and could seen no way forward.

I’d helped her mother, a primary teacher, with a reading problem in her class, and she asked me for help with French. In just three lessons over the internet, I showed her daughter how French spoken and written language work, how and why they use grammatical markers that we no longer use in English, and how to use the shared features of both languages. I introduced some features of French usage that went beyond the obvious, but always with full explanation. Languages are human constructs, with human weaknesses as well as strengths. We say we have other fish to fry, whether or not we fry fish, and the French that they have other cats to whip, though I’ve never seen a Frenchman whip a cat. The goal was to bring her fragments of knowledge together to build understanding, and so to give her a degree of control. I’d forgotten all about it until she sent me an email on Thursday night, thanking me for helping her get an A.

Laudable but with one child? Would you be prepared to try out your methods with whole classes across the secondary age-range in any comprehensive school in the country for at least a term, on a full timetable 5 days a week?

Back to where I started, with reading. I offer free help with reading problems, over the internet if necessary. My approach involves explaining, in terms a child can understand, how spelling works in English, and how it has developed. Its basis is in the representation of sounds by letters – phonics – but this is complicated, first by the Norman invasion, which flooded English with French, and then by historic shifts in pronunciation, including shortcuts,  that have removed spelling from spoken forms. One current pupil is an eight-year-old who had been completely unable to read six months ago, and whose problems with speech made me wonder if we were going to succeed or not.

After working hard on Ruth Miskin’s Ditties from Read Write Inc, we moved to Burglar Bill, which, yesterday, he had forgotten. The best I had to hand was Mrs Christmas, in which the letters in the words of the title do not tell us all we need to know in order to read them.  I explained the origins of Mr and Mrs and the contraction of Christ – Mass  to Christmas. The first page included several variations on basic phonic patterns, each of which I unpacked and explained, using my normal technique of working on a word similar to that which the child has misread, and then returning to it after the pattern has been understood. The pupil returned to the text and read it correctly. I always make a note of all the words we work on, and I gave this to his father so that he could practise them with his son over the week.

His parting comment was “It’s given us hope.” Not “You’ve”, but “It’s” – the teaching and not some personal attribute of the teacher. Anyone can do this, and I’m happy to show them how, pro bono.  If you’d like a nice starting point for a class, try this lovely animation of the Bayeux Tapestry. For a fuller account of the development of English spelling, try David Crystal’s Spell It Out.

John – I will forever defend your right to say what you think, but please check your facts. And a little humility never goes amiss

 

 

 

 

What is tradition?

Despite all my reservations I decided to “do Twitter” some time ago. I am totally surprised that it provides such a great virtual community both professionally and personally. Though the two often merge. As in real life. That is not to say that I agree with everyone and everything and they certainly do not always agree with me. But that is life and freedom of speech and freedom of belief are at the heart of life. As long as we all have the right to disagree and challenge and to make our voices heard and to be kind and tolerant and respectful.

Starting a blog has been a great surprise  – so many people reading it in the first place, agreeing and disagreeing but actually whichever way you look at it, giving me the time of day.

The thing that has surprised me most is that I sometimes upset people. I do not set out to do this and I never post anything that I would not talk to someone about face to face – ideally over a cup of tea and a piece of Victoria sponge. Of course 140 characters is limiting and it is easy to inadvertently get things wrong. If that happens I am quick to apologise. Sometimes with humour – youngest child syndrome never goes away!

But last weekend I posted a tweet that lead to a bit of a Twitter spat involving quite a number of people. My instincts, because I can also be a bit of a wimp and I was full of birthday Victoria sponge, was to let it go. But the writer of the original blog and some of her followers seemed genuinely interested in what I had objected to.

Here is the original blog

http://conservativeteachers.com/2015/10/16/heather-fearn-why-im-a-conservative-teacher/

So I waited, thought and reflected. Knee jerk is not good.

The original blog seemed to me to imply that many, many schools – and I suspect state schools though to be fair these are not actually mentioned – were the focus here but I may be wrong – are more or less devoid of tradition/s. I assumed state schools only because 93% of our children are educated in them…..And that this parlous state of affairs has been brought about by left wing radicals who do not want our children to enjoy the richness of fantastic traditions. This are the quotations that lead me to my judgements about this article.

“Left wingers railed against privilege while stripping schools of those very features that gave richness and worth to school communities.

“There is open rejection of the wisdom that led to the teaching of subject disciplines, valuing knowledge for its own sake, handing on the thoughts and ideas that make us civilised, make us human.”

“Educationalists in their ivory towers casually dismiss rigorous academic teaching as well as the sports days and prize-givings as elitist.”

I am surprised that any one really thinks that left wing radicals whoever they are ( I have never met one but I do know lots of deeply caring, sensible and traditional left wing people – and lots of deeply caring, sensible and right wing people should anyone be interested)  have that much influence in how schools run their traditions. So I thought that I would just point out what I know to happen in thousands of schools across the country in terms of traditions. The things that give children pride in themselves, their school, their families and the whole community. The things that are open to everyone and often involve everyone and go way beyond the taught curriculum. it may be an eclectic mixture but here are some:

Choir, orchestra, debating society, gospel choir, swing band, clubs of all sorts from chess to fishing, too many to list, annual Eisteddfod (from Wales despite having an  Irish name!) sports clubs, teams, school productions, the Christmas plays, nativity and otherwise, PTA activities, reading groups, brass bands, carol concerts, November 11th two minutes silence, hockey, cricket, football, netball, rugby tournaments…

I could go on and on but I just want to maybe get people to think about we mean by “tradition” and that we have to embrace new traditions as these are all part of our society. When I was an LA adviser I loved being invited to Diwali celebrations, nativity plays, world culture and Language events TAFAL (Teach a Friend A Language) one of the best new traditions EVER bar none. Contact me if you want to know more! I had no idea of the voting patterns of staff in these schools and would not have wanted too. But they were all immensely  decent people and visionary leaders. I use the term leaders for all teachers in this case. Leading by example not by political whim or education fashion of the season.

Actually I rather liked the opening paragraphs of Heather’s blog and was completely taken aback when what had started as a description of a seemingly very lovely tradition turned into an attack on “left wing educationalists in ivory towers” wanting to destroy young people’s aspirations and deny them great experiences.

So what I objected to was what I perceived to be a somewhat accusatory tone and that the writer was making assertions that in my experience are simply not true. What was the evidence base for all of this? I know where and how I have seen all that things that I mention actually happening – from my own school days to now.

I, and I suspect most of us love traditions. Although there are some we don’t like and don’t want to or do not have the capacity or in my case the talent to take part in personally – I really don’t like Bonfire night and I cannot do Irish dancing as I am so clumsy.

I hope this answers some questions. If it does – great. If not we will have to agree to differ but at least we have had an open and I hope courteous exchange.