On tech vs pens vs progs vs trads vs millions of displaced children, in refugee camps, with no educational provision at all. Like, seriously…

Miss Scott Said What?

My timeline today has been full of comments and arguments regarding technology such as minecraft. I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what it is, but that’s me and tech. I break it. It goes wrong. So I swerve. Be it a photocopier or an app, chances are that I touch it and it will jam, freeze, shut down, poo itself.

Yeah I see the value of an interactive smart whizzy speakered board and yeah I use mobile phones in lessons, yeah I use video and music at times, I’ve even been known to use banks of iPads. Sometimes I use drama, I’ve also been known to sing (badly) in a neon flashing mike, pilfered from Reflex. I’ve even used a sock puppet app. Crazy. Are these things gimmicks? Maybe.

The actual truth is quite simple; I’m a teacher, I try bits, some work, some don’t. If they don’t I…

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On tech vs pens vs progs vs trads vs millions of displaced children, in refugee camps, with no educational provision at all. Like, seriously…

My timeline today has been full of comments and arguments regarding technology such as minecraft. I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what it is, but that’s me and tech. I break i…

Source: On tech vs pens vs progs vs trads vs millions of displaced children, in refugee camps, with no educational provision at all. Like, seriously…


Over half term I and two friends spent 4 days over in France helping out with a charity called Care4Calais, set up 2 years ago by someone who could no longer find it within herself to stand idly by while refugees and migrants camps on the other side of the Channel gradually took on the permanence of small towns, with the trappings of normal life – basic shops, schools, places of worship, dwellings organised by ethnic lines into “Little Eritrea”, “Sudan City”, “Afghanistan Town” – but with none of the comfort or security, recreated instead out of tarpaulins, corrugated metal sheeting and whatever else the residents could scrape together. And all this within a literal stone’s throw of a downturn-trodden but still relatively affluent town centre.

I guess you could say that I was massaging my middle-class guilt at having done nothing more, until this point, than donating the occasional amount on charity websites or clicking my support for one or other of the security blanket of online petitions which paper our inboxes nowadays. 

Our arrival in Calais coincided with the departure of the last busloads of young people for the Centres d’Accueil et d’Orientation, meaning that – in theory, and according to the French Government – the “Jungle” had been cleared. The problem solved. And any proximity to the ramping-up of of sparring before the upcoming French Presidential elections was all purely coincidental, of course…

But after a first day working in the two Care4Calais warehouses and the open space between them, checking the state of donated tents for dispatch to places of need, we found ourselves drawn to check the now burned-out and bulldozered patch of brown-field for ourselves. 

As the sun set over Calais, we skirted the site to find it still guarded by gendarmes and CRS, and indeed still occupied by a handful of families with small children running apparently carefree amidst the container dwellings and now-defunct infrastructure of what had been, until days before, a “town” of 10,000. We also saw three young men of apparently north and west African origin walking the edge of the Jungle site, followed barely 5 paces behind by an escort of 3 gendarmes. Where were they heading? Had they not made it onto the buses? Had they arrived since the “problem had been solved”…?

My thoughts about what the Calais “Jungle”, the camp under the métro arches at Stalingrad in Paris (and the other mini-camps we never hear about in our news media) represent have been swirling around in my head since I left behind the can-do camaraderie of the Care4Calais volunteers and returned to *my* normality after having my eyes well-and-truly opened. 

And now they have been thrown into sharp focus by the events across another stretch of water, in the American Presidential Election.

On the day we heard that the political landscape had tilted so suddenly to the right, memories flooded back of a day exactly 27 years ago, when a popular movement fuelled by peaceful positivity tore down a wall which had represented a scar across not only a country but a continent and a geopolitical world. The irony of a President-Elect whose most eye-catching campaign pledge had involved selling the idea of a 2000 mile border wall to keep out a people tarred as one with the brush of “rapists” – despite facing legal proceedings for this very crime himself – was almost physically sickening.

And my mind returned to this gate in the “Jungle” wall:

Now we hear that the President-Elect “probably can’t get Mexico to pay for a wall… But is was a great campaign device.” (Newt Gingrich: potentially the next Secretary-of-State). Apparently, Mr Trump “knows how to build big buildings. He knows how to build golf courses. He knows how to build lots of stuff. The idea that he can’t figure out how to control the southern border is just silly.”

27 years ago, I was an 18 year-old working in a shop in Paris, and debating whether to lose my job and hitch to Berlin just to be there as the German people carved a brave new chapter in their history, completely sidelining their political classes by getting it done, themselves. I don’t have many regrets in life – but not having done so is one of them…

Now we live in the so-called “post-truth” world, where a whispered lie can be on the other side of the world before truth has time to tie its shoelaces. Walls, philosophical and political if not physical, are being thrown up all around the globe as right-wing opportunists fan the flames of the precariat’s anger at perceived injustices.

On our final day in Calais, we spent the morning observing proceedings at the Tribunal de Grande Instance, in the shadow of the sprawling monument to consumerism that is Cité d’Europe. Care4Calais had heard from some of the refugees in the detention centre that they were being poorly treated, and so French-speaking volunteers were asked to go along incognito, without our charity tabards, to see if our mere anonymous presence would encourage the police and judiciary to “do things right”. 

We were buzzed in by the brooding police, searched from head to foot and told to switch off our mobiles. We then saw a succession of Vietnamese, Albanian, Eritrean, Sudanese and Afghan men aged between 19 and 35 come before the presiding magistrate, with just one female police officer lightening the prevailing sense of tension. Alongside us was a French law student, and we exchanged thoughts after proceedings paused. We agreed that, whilst there had been no maltreatment of the detainees, the sheer back-slapping, off-hand “palliness” between the présidente and the lawyers acting for the State and the refugees had been distasteful of itself: a lack of respect was shown them which all had found hard to stomach.

Well, I am not *going* to stomach this sort of thing any more. To quote a banner-bearer on the streets of New York, this morning: “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept”. 

Do what you can. If we *all* do all we can, legally, peaceably yet forcefully, there’s *nothing* that Presidents-Elect or their dog-whistling poodles can do about it.

The Long Jump

As the Rio Olympics get underway, I’ve been reflecting about how our job has many parallels to that of sportspeople. And today I began to think about the similarities with the Long Jump in particular. Bear with me!

We both have pauses in between sudden bouts of frenetic activity, during which we must immediately raise our performance level to the highest we can sustain. And ideally we need to do better each “round”/term. 

We both have people in white coats measuring our performance, and raising a red flag if we step on the plasticine strip (find your own metaphor for that one!)

We both have to start afresh each time, with helpful people raking over the pit in between…

One of my focuses for reflection this summer is how to make sure that I a) start the new “competition”/school year fresh and b) manage the transition from relaxingly busy summer to hell-for-leather dash into the Autumn term. Any ideas? Thanks in advance…

Compassion for oneself

I’m sorry
Please forgive me
Thank you, and I love you

Ho’oponopono – a Hawaiian mantra

Social Media in schools – #BETTchat 28/7/15

Looking foward to it

I took part in a very interesting BETTchat on Twitter on the 28th July. It has taken me up until now to get around to putting together this post (having too much fun on holiday, quite frankly!)

This is not a complete Storify of the chat, but the tweets which I have prioritised, from my own perspective and with my own practice and my school in mind – but I hope it might be of use to others too.

Firstly, here are the 5 questions asked by Rachel Orr, the curator of the chat on this occasion:

Q1 How much do we hide from SM in schools Q2 Do school FB accounts lead to slanging matches

Q3 How does sch use SM to link students, in or outside lessons Q4 How do you get staff onboard with SM

Q5 Dos and Don'ts for SM in school

Here are the tweeted responses/further questions I selected – in no particular order, sorry! There are a few very useful links to posts which others have read, in amongst them. I certainly plan to show my SMT the specially-created Facebook page that Rachel mentions.

A1 Fear of negative comments on school accounts  A1 No different to playground comments.

A1 Facebook page - best parental link we've done  A1 Not sure how or what for A1 Positives outeigh negatives A1 School Twitter account - an approach to follow A2 Importance of privacy settings A2 Work out what you want your FB page to do - link to website, Twitter etc A3 Dept accounts enable revision and celebration of pupils' work A3 Edmodo - good in- and outside lessons, and walled garden so safe A3 Great potential for links btwn schools, project work A4 Don't force reluctant colleagues - but show positive impact A5 We must model it for students to learn how to use it sensibly But links can transmit enthusiasm btwn staff & pupils & parents Clear online boundaries needed btwn staff & pupils & parents eCadets Engage, exploit, make it work for you FB with restricted comments - just another channel How do you counter the NO TIME response from colleagues I make time for what matters to me Link all SM systems, email, text together for ease of use   Member of staff as SM admin Parents can be very supportive of school FB sites Purpose-built FB page - no problems yet after 18 months    School FB page builder - Blippit SM has reduced enquiries to school office Using Twitter with Y2 - blogpost Walled gardens Workload reduced - less phonecalls

And this is the key point, for me:

Love it or hate it - SM is here to stay, so make it work for you

What do you think?

#blimage – Let’s go outside and play!

Rachel Jones (@rlj1981) has thrown down the blimage gauntlet, which Steve Wheeler and Amy Burvall came up with earlier this month, as a fresh way to inspire educational bloggers, via an image sent to them by someone in their PLN.

This is the picture Rachel tweeted out, a day or two ago. I love Calvin and Hobbes, and enjoy receiving cartoons in my Twitter feed. There’s a warmth and a humanity about them – and in the context of the headline-dominating news about Cedric the lion and the hunter/dentist, these four frames take on an added poignancy.

calvin_and_hobbes_off_ritalin source

But when I did a little more digging, I found this:

Calvin and Hobbes - Snap out of it source

So sad… And is it likely to be depressingly prophetic? Not so much in the sense of pupils being increasingly medicated in a bid to control whatever syndrome, but the feeling that more and more kids are losing their childhoods, and finding their lives dominated by homework and assessments…

I aim to take my lessons beyond paper, desks, (even walls and windows) whenever I can, and I like to think that not only do I help my pupils retain sight of the fun and wonder inherent in the learning process, but that they help me to do the same. Let’s go outside and play!

PS I know it’s a bit of a cheat to add a second (bl)image! 🙂

PPS I know the first three panels aren’t by Bill Watterson… 😉