#blacklivesmatter means we teachers have some learning to do…

CC Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnnysilvercloud/28476745294

The #blacklivesmatter movement has (I hope) got us all thinking about how to be anti-racist – how to be part of the solution not part of the problem.

However, I think we are going to find that being anti-racist is much broader than simply anti-black-and-brown-people racism – being anti-racist means being anti-oppression, and in this short post I’m going to try to explain why I think we classroom teachers (I talk in particular about language teaching because that’s my profession, but my point applies to all teaching) have some learning to do. Let me start with something surprising:

As language teachers:

  • I don’t think we should be telling our students HOW to speak – I don’t think we should be judging THEIR utterances by OUR “native-speaker” standards. We should be helping them develop ideas about THEIR OWN standards, and helping them work towards THOSE standards, not our own.
  • And I don’t think we should be telling them WHAT to say – I think we should be helping them to find THEIR OWN voices, to say what THEY want to say, not what WE want them to say.

Yes, as educators we have a role: we can suggest topics and roads of enquiry, and prod them with questions to encourage deeper thought.

IF that’s what they want.

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How to set up to teach online in a hurry


Japan (finally) declaring a state of emergency over Covid-19 means teachers and schools are all scrambling to come with ways to teach online. After a (online!) meeting yesterday I came away with what I think is a pretty good fast-starter arrangement for online teaching, so this post is to give you what I know so far, so you’ve got something to build on.

This method (hack?) uses google classroom as the primary method of communicating with your students to tell them about video classes, set assignments etc, and pretty much any audio/video chat application for doing the actual lessons.

(Zoom is popular, and has a great “breakout rooms” feature, tho it does have well-documented security issues – see my short discussion below)

UPDATE 2020-04-10: I realized it’s possible to simplify this even further:
You need:
1. A method of sharing links and short messages with your students: Google Classroom might be good (especially if you want to set assignments, share documents etc) but to get online teaching started all you really need is a group for each of your classes in ANY messaging app: once you have them all in one place, you’ll be able to arrange meeting etc to further organize.
2. A method of talking live with your students: any group talk-to-each-other app, some teachers may even feel that no video just audio will work, which will broaden the possibilities

How to:

1. open up google classroom from your google (personal) account

2. top right hit “+” > create a class

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Children’s independence


Summerhill School is a democratically-run boarding school in England for children aged six to eighteen. Founded by A.S. Neill in 1921 it is sometimes called “the oldest children’s democracy in the world,” and when I visited for a week in 2005 I loved it – I said to my mother “That’s the first school I’ve visited that I actually like!” The kids had so much freedom – some of them went to lessons but many of them simply spent the day climbing trees and messing around on bicycles. I also got to witness the school meeting, which was wonderfully egalitarian, with teachers and students on a completely equal footing, able to speak their minds honestly and without “Children’s independence” の続きを読む

APDEC 2016 – initial thoughts


2016-07-19 09.30.40

I just got back last night from APDEC 2016 in Taiwan. I’m pretty tired but I want to get some initial thoughts down – hopefully I’ll write more about these topics in the coming weeks (once I recover).

About childhood:

  • Play is really, really, really important for children’s development. It’s important for cognitive learning, and also equally important for emotional health (Peter Gray).
  • Children spending time away from their parents is really important, and they cope with it very well – they’re not nearly as dependent on us as we (like to?) think they are (Henry Readhead).
  • Children need other children to play with – there’s nothing wrong with also playing with adults, but playing with other children is vital.
  • Play is also vital for adults – ideally you’ll experience your work as play .
  • Parents need help to be the best parents they can be – without training they’ll tend to copy their own parents.
  • Educators, parents, and children (and indeed, probably everybody in the world) would all do well to learn Non-Violent Communication. This is something I feel I might be able to help people learn, though I also need to learn a lot more about it too.

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Real learning comes from curiosity


It’s my belief that we should leave children’s learning up to their own curiosity, because learning that comes from curiosity is true learning that they will remember throughout their life, whereas learning that they have forced upon them is shallow and soon forgotten. As an example, I want to reflect on my school-based maths learning.

At 16 years old I got an “A” in my maths GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education, a national exam in England), an exam that involved extensive algebra and trigonometry. Getting an “A” means that at the time I really must have learned the material, and yet now I can hardly do algebra at all. I can’t solve any but the most rudimentary of problems. “Real learning comes from curiosity” の続きを読む

Computer Games: an early experience of competence and confidence

minecraft E 20per


For his birthday in January 2015 Boo decided he wanted Minecraft. In case you don’t know it, I’ll briefly explain: Minecraft is a computer game where you (along with other players) run around freely in a 3D world , building things and exploring – kind of like Lego if you and your friends could be the little Lego men and had an infinite number of blocks to play with (and an infinitely large bedroom). It’s a creative game that I was also really interested in playing, and once I installed it on our tablets we played together for at least a couple of hours every day. “Computer Games: an early experience of competence and confidence” の続きを読む