Dilemma!

Dilemma

Another school governance post. A ‘partner’ post to my one on the Role of the Staff Governor. This time, I have been thinking about the challenges that face parent governors and the problems they face with the different metaphorical hats that they need to wear.

Here are some thought-provoking scenarios that parent governors may face. What do you think? Have you had any similar ones? Can you think of others? How would you deal with them? roulette uk

1. Through discussions at governors meetings, you are aware that a member of the teaching staff has been experiencing relationship difficulties and has consequently been taking frequent time off school as sick leave and for a variety of appointments. A group of parents approach you and demand to know what you, as a parent governor, propose to do about it. How do you respond? What about if your own child is in that teacher’s class?

2. There is another parent governor who you also know socially. Over coffee, they start to express concerns about the ability of one of the teachers at the school, saying that they are not up to the job and that children are not making progress. How do you respond? What about if the concerns are about the Headteacher’s competence/ability?

3. You are a parent governor in a primary school that does not have a formal school uniform. You believe very strongly that the school should have a school uniform and expressed that view at a governors meeting at which the decision was taken to continue without the uniform. A parent approaches you and says “I really think there should be a school uniform! What a stupid decision! What do you think?” How do you respond?

4. You receive an invitation on Facebook to join a Facebook group that is critical of the school/headteacher. How do you respond? If you are not on Facebook but are aware of the group’s existence, what would you do?

5. You are on an interview panel for the appointment of a teacher. After interviewing a young female candidate, the headteacher says “Oh, we wouldn’t want to appoint her, she’d be off on maternity leave in the next couple of years and we’d have a right headache finding a temporary replacement.” How would you respond?

6. Your child has a really good friend in his/her class that is also your next door neighbour. The child is excluded from the school because of a behavioural incident. His mother, your friend and neighbour, comes round to your house to ask you what you think and to say how unfair she thinks it is. How do you respond?

7. A parent comes up to you and says that they think you obviously became a governor because everyone knows that the children of parent governors get treated more favourably. How do you respond?

8. A parent tells you they are really unhappy with their child’s class teacher who they say is always shouting at the class and making their child unhappy and not want to go to school. They say to you, “You’re a governor. Can you sort it out?” How do you respond?

Image thanks to Broodkast on Flickr

Torn

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My first post in my capacity as a school governor!
In readiness for a course that I will be running for the first time on ‘The Role of the Staff Governor’, I was thinking about what a difficult role it is from the point of view of potential conflicts of interest and the various ‘hats’ one would need to wear in different situations and contexts. I think that similar challenges exist for all school governors but are particularly accute for parents and staff members of the GB – with staff perhaps edging it in this respect.

I thought I would gather some interesting and challenging scenarios and dilemmas to present to delegates on my course in order to provoke some discussion. This is something I have always done on my course for parent governors and some excellent conversations inevitably follow! I have asked colleagues and my Twitter network and come up with the following:

1. Your headteacher comes to you with diary open to ask to put in some dates for the both of you to meet prior to governors meetings to discuss the upcoming agendas. How do you respond?

2. A staff colleague asks you how you will be voting and says to you, “You know, don’t you, what the majority of staff think about this. You need to represent us by voting our way at the meeting.” You don’t share the majority view. What do you say? How will you vote?

3. A staff colleague approaches you insisting that you raise the issue of the broken staff-room fridge at governors. How do you respond? What if it is the issue of the dangerous paving in the staff car park?

4. A staff colleague sits down next to you in the staff room and starts moaning and slagging off a parent (who is a governor) suggesting they must be dreadful in governors meetings. How do you respond?

5. In a governors meeting, the Headteacher is reporting on the progress of pupils. You become aware that the data has been ‘spruced up’ in a way that you think is deceptive or gives a misleading message to governors. What do you do?

6. A curriculum leader or Head of Department is invited to report to governors about developments in their subject/department. There are some fundamental inaccuracies that you are aware of. What do you do?

7. Another (non-staff) governor asks you your opinion of one of your teaching colleagues. They say they have a right to know about the quality of teaching because OFSTED expect governors to know this stuff now.

8. You are in the supermarket when a parent sidles up to you saying, “You’re a governor up at the school aren’t you? I hope you don’t mind me saying but I’ve got a real problem with that last letter the Headteacher sent out. It was…” How do you respond?

9. You are in the supermarket when a parent sidles up to you saying, “You’re a governor up at the school aren’t you? I’ve heard that there’s a real problem with bullying/drugs at the school. Is this true? What are governors doing about it?” How do you respond?

I would love you to suggest any more in the comments but would also very much welcome your responses to the scenarios! Please do contribute!

The Twitter discussion went off on a slight tangent into a discussion as to whether or not governing bodies should have staff representation at all, or indeed parent representation. At that point, I had to attend a committee meeting (at which we were presented with a report from the Head of Maths…). Please see my other post on the challenges facing parent governors.

Amongst all the people who have helped, I am grateful to the following Twitterers:
@chilledteaching @balance_ec @runsworth @global_teacher
@sugaredpill @ideas_factory @andyisatwork
@clare_collins 
@cwcomm1 @5N_afzal @ingotian what is the safest online gambling sites

and to Julia Manzerova on Flickr for the image. video poker download

BETTophobia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I don’t like IKEA. I’ll tell you why. It is because of what I call ‘IKEA Fear’. The symptoms of IKEA Fear are a mounting sense of disquiet that commences the minute I pass through the large revolving doors. This disquiet worsens progressively as I meander first through immaculate living rooms, on through offices, bedrooms and kitchens until it becomes something visceral within my chest and stomach, usually around the time I reach the carpet, curtains and cushions – urging me to run screaming from the building clutching at my hair.

I have contemplated this feeling and the possible reasons for it. I have a theory based upon nothing other than my own tenuous guesses. I think my problem may possibly be similar to conditions such as agoraphobia or claustrophobia, and here are a couple of exacerbating factors:
• There is a disorientating absence of any reference to the outside world. If you are lucky, you might glimpse a rectangle of far-off, semi-industrial car-park through a distant fire door (the location of which is noted in the event of a panic-induced exit in due course).
• There is a disturbing juxtaposing of comfy, soft, homely environments in which you can sit and imagine oneself in the bosom of family relaxing after or during a meal… until you look up and witness the horrific, industrial tangle of ducting and steel. I don’t mind telling you that this contrast messes with my head.

Now, on to the BETT Show 2013. This year, it relocated from Olympia to Excel- a move I welcomed initially as it certainly improved accessibility for me. This welcome feeling was short-lived. On arrival at Excel, I attempted to feel upbeat and optimistic but that familiar disquiet, the IKEA Fear, started to creep up on me. I apologise to those friends of mine whom I encountered on that first morning, my brow knitted and jaw slightly tensed. I put on a brave face and greeted you enthusiastically but I wasn’t quite myself. Walking the (seemingly) mile-long boulevards, snickets and ginnels of the exhibition space, my anxiety mounted until I had to make a swift exit. David Mitchell and Julia Skinner were fortunately on hand to scoop me up as I composed myself over some lunch with them.
I struggled throughout the two and a bit days at the show. My misery was mitigated only by the wonderful encounters I had with lovely people. The social, the teachmeet, the laughs and the learning mean that I won’t be boycotting in future. I will take the rough with the smooth.

I miss Olympia. I miss the quirkiness, the characterful architecture, the nooks and crannies, the expanse of sky spread out above. I also miss the opportunities for out-of-body elevations to the balcony for welcome, reorienting breathers during which one could see the layout, establish the landmarks or spot a friend to pursue. top 10 gambling sites

Oh, and I didn’t even see anything especially exciting or innovative in those long corridors of anxiety. Next year, I will dedicate myself to establishing quick exit routes whilst also seeking out people – after all, it is them that make a visit to BETT worthwhile.

Algorithm is a dancer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been having a think – about algorithms and such. I wasn’t sure if I had in all this sorted in my mind and I figured I should. Shouldn’t we all? So, happy to expose my ignorance in the public forum, I asked my lovely Twitter followers what they had to say on the matter. I posted the following tweet:

I got some helpful responses. Firstly from @robthill

And then from Peter Lonsdale:

…and Pat Parslow:

 

Whereas, Richard Hussey came next with:

…but this was questioned by Rob Hill:

I liked Dave Twisleton-Ward’s take on it (with a slight adaption): A final couple of contributions, first from Spatricus:


And a final word from Roger Broadie:

…and a late edition from Richard Hussey again:


Are we any wiser? Are you clear about what an algorithm is? How it differs from a program? Could you a) explain it to a 6yr old? b) know that the 6yr old had understood it?

I think algorithms are generic and don’t require computers (unlike programs, which do).
Programs are generally more complex than algorithms.
I think that if young people are to understand any of this, they need lots of tangible examples with reference to the terminology. But more importantly if teachers are to help with all this (which they may/should be required to), they will need to have all of this clear in their own minds.

We can only teach something effectively when we truly understand it ourselves.

Image thanks to piratejohnny on Flickr under Creative Commons

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Protect or not?

I was asked today whether or not a school or class twitter account should be protected or not (a parent had suggested they should lock down the accounts and only allow approved followers) and whether there was any advice or guidance I could share on the matter. Here’s what I said in my reply. I thought it worth sharing wider:

As a rule, I would advocate open unless there is a compelling argument otherwise – this ensures a wide audience etc. Ask yourself (and the parent maybe) “What exactly are your concerns about the followers and why would you want to set it to accepted followers only?” I’d love to know the answer to this one.

Here are some concerns that may be cited: 

–    Predatory undesirables may follow the account. Answer: They could do this whether or not the account is protected. How would you know whether the request from @dave32457 is Nathan’s grandpa in Australia or a predatory undesirable? What’s more, if you set the account to protected and needed to approve followers you would get:
1. An additional administrative overhead (are you going to ask every new follower to explain who they are and why they want to follow? How would you ever know if that’s the truth?) and
2. A potentially greater problem if it turned out that one of the followers was a known predatory undesirable and the school had (albeit inadvertently) approved them as a follower – the press would like that, I reckon!

–     Some Twitter accounts are clearly undesirable and inappropriate to have as followers. This is an unfortunate feature of Twitter that occasionally such accounts appear as new followers. This is the only potentially compelling argument to protect a class/school account. However, for me, it doesn’t outweigh the benefits of being open. My advice on this would be to monitor followers daily and block any inappropriate or undesirable ones. You may have to actually view the timeline of the new follower’s account for this. real slots online for ipad

–     Followers are visible as followers and they may tweet inappropriate things and this may impact negatively on our reputation as a school by association. My answer to this is that what your followers say on Twitter is no more your responsibility than what parents might say down the pub or on Facebook – it is their look-out.

–     “I don’t want my chiild’s image published on the internet.” This is more than just a Twitter argument actually. Answer: Why not? Exactly why not? Ok, fair enough if there is a genuine child-protection issue but if not? What exactly are you worried about?

 One of the great things about an unprotected account is that it does provide a genuine and potentially huge global audience which is one compelling reason for a school/class to use Twitter, alongside the other which is parental engagement. Another, slightly technical reason for keeping it open is that retweets from protected accounts do not work so, someone like myself (or Nathan’s mum for instance) would be unable  to share further the fabulous stuff being tweeted  (including to Nathan’s grandpa – who might not yet be following). I love the way that I can share the greatness of Twitter as a fantastic school tool by retweeting school/class accounts to my wider following of schools and educators and this would be curtailed with a protected account. Whether you follow other accounts and who they are is another matter and worthy of some caution and consideration as it represents a choice.

What do you think? Should schools or classes protect or unprotect their Twitter feeds? Is it different for a class account vs a school account? Have I missed anything? I would really welcome your input as a comment!

Images with thanks to leehaywood on Flickr (via creative commons)

3D Printing

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You may remember I’m involved in a primary school 3D printing project. We have come some way with this recently. We held a competition for schools to submit ‘Dragons’ Den’ pitches to have a printer located at their school. We have decided upon a printer, the Bits from Bytes ‘3D Touch’ and had it delivered to the winning school – Birkenshaw Primary School.

On 9th July, we had an afternoon at the school working with some Year 4 children. We were lucky to be joined by a key member of our project team, Dejan Mitrovic from the Royal College of Art. Dejan is a design specialist who also has considerable experience and expertise in the use of 3D Printing. He is responsible for Kide™ and Kideville ™, concepts that have led to young people engaging with 3D printing in exciting and innovative ways through hands-on approaches in a variety of contexts, from exhibitions at galleries (such as the V&A) and trade-fairs to primary school classrooms. top 10 casino canada

 

 

Dejan came to Birkenshaw with a well-structured, punchy afternoon of activity for the children to get stuck into. Recognising the need for learning to be relevant, he themed the afternoon around the design of a (Olympic) stadium. Initially Dejan talked about form and function and shared numerous examples of stadia from around the world. He then introduced a paper-based activity in which the children were asked to design their own stadium (in pairs). They were asked to do ‘front’, ‘side’ and ‘top’ views of their stadium as well as having a go at a 3D view. It was fascinating to see the children’s differing approaches and the diversity in creativity and technical ability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then moved to computer-based design and the children were introduced to 3Dtin  – browser-based 3D design software. I love 3Dtin. It is intuitive and straightforward and children could get going straight away (it also has an interesting ‘social’ element). Having said that, they did experience varying degrees of success with regards to producing a finished design for a stadium. I think this was essentially down to time – there simply wasn’t long enough for them to tackle some new software and apply that to the project.

Fullscreen:

As with any unfamiliar medium – whether it is clay, paint, a musical instrument or software, I am a real advocate of allowing space to ‘play and learn’ before applying that knowledge in context. Despite this, a number of children did produce designs suitable for printing. A quick vote decided a winning design to be ‘printed’ there and then.

The 3Dtin software allows for files to be exported in a format (STL) that can be understood by the printer and so it is a relatively simple process (via a USB memory stick) to get a file printing (an object emerges incrementally through the extrusion of a line of 0.25mm molten plastic). The printing process itself is mesmerising and children and adults alike find the emergence of an object a hypnotic experience.

The end result was a great little ‘stadium’.

Slideshow:
Fullscreen:
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Girly Swot!

“Swot!”

“Nerd!”

“Geek!”

“Wonk!”

“Have you revised? Really?! I haven’t.”

“You what? You did all your homework?” us casinos 18

“E-learning is really good for boys. They can ‘hide’ their learning so they’re not seen to be uncool in front of their mates.”

I’ve heard all of these. And worse. I bet you have too. How has it come to this?

I recently attended an ‘Evening of Excellence’ at which pupils from a high school had the opportunity to have their efforts and achievements rewarded in a ceremony at the town hall. Sitting amongst and talking to some parents, my initial feelings of joy at this event started to develop into something more akin to unease. I learned that 14 year old Lucy* had already been subject to ‘bullying’ that day because she was up for 3 awards. Also Joe’s* (12) parents had struggled to get him there as he didn’t want to attend and suffer the consequent shame and mocking that would ensue.

Is this an inherent problem with awards? Of course, there are inevitable winners and losers and how one goes about it is very important. Here’s Doug Belshaw on The Edublog Awards. Also see Simon Widdowson, someone else who holds little truck with awards, be they GCT (Google Certified Teachers), ADE (Apple Distinguished Educators) or other. We should celebrate effort and achievement though shouldn’t we? We should drop marbles in jars, press stickers on chests, give badges, medals and trophies shouldn’t we? Are we just being divisive and fostering resentment or are we providing an incentive? Awards feel great if you’re getting one. What if you’re not? Do the non-recipients harbour deep-seated grudging feelings that eventually manifest themselves in the sorts of back page headlines we are used to seeing around our hapless international sports teams. Is it cultural? Are we worse at it here in the UK? It feels like it. We do love to build them up and knock ‘em down again.

More questions than answers. This is a definitely a big one and ingrained to a certain extent. Learning, success and achievement, particularly in school, just isn’t cool enough.

This makes me sad.

Since writing, I have watched Dan Pink’s TED talk on motivation which is worth watching and definitely relevant:

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*not their real names