A Glossary of U.K. Education (Vol. 2)

Volume One of our handy glossary of commonly-used terms in U.K. education was such a success that our publishers have rushed out the second volume. We hope that you find this a useful tool in navigating the debates and discussion around education, both online and in real world situations.

assembly

/əˈsɛmbli/

noun

the action of gathering a group of children together in order to watch a short video of an athlete doing something inspiring to uplifting music.

Bjork, Robert A.

/bjɔːk/, ˈrɒbət ˈ/ 

noun

cognitive psychologist, famous for his work on learning, memory and forgetting, and for his hit single “It’s Oh So Quiet”, which spent 15 weeks in the U.K. singles chart in 1995; he was hoping you’d forgotten about that.

cake

/keɪk/ 

noun

main fuel source of teachers during the latter weeks of a term; as a child, cake is something that someone buys you on your birthday; as a teacher, cake is something that you have to buy for everyone in your department on your own birthday; how did that happen?

Chartered College of Teaching

/ˈtʃɑːtəd ˈkɒlɪdʒ ɒv ˈtiːtʃɪŋ/

noun

see General Teaching Council for England (GTC).

Dead Poet’s Society

/dɛd ˈpəʊɪtz səˈsʌɪɪti/

noun

elaborate teacher recruitment video from the late 1980s; data shows that the two-thirds of teachers who remain in the profession after five years only stay on in the hope that their pupils will one day stand on their desks and declare “O Captain! My Captain!” at them.

detention

/dɪˈtɛnʃ(ə)n/

noun

punishment given out to teachers whereby they have to give up their break time, lunchtime or after school to spend time with someone who has previously been rude to them or otherwise ignored their instructions.

enquiry learning

/ɪnˈkwʌɪri ˈləːnɪŋ/ 

noun

for a clear understanding of the way that enquiry learning works, see entry for inquiry learning.

GCSE results day

/ˈˈsˈɛsˈiː rɪˈzʌltz deɪ

noun

the second most exciting day in the school calendar, after stationery order delivery day.

growth mindset

/ɡrəʊθ ˈmʌɪn(d)sɛt/ 

noun

a powerful incantation used as a magic word; legend has it that, if SLT and the board of governors hold hands in a circle with their eyes closed and chant the words ‘growth mindset’ three times, when they open their eyes the DfE will have made further cuts to their school budget.

inquiry learning

/ɪnˈkwʌɪri ˈləːnɪŋ/ 

noun

for a clear understanding of the way that inquiry learning works, see entry for enquiry learning.

lunchtime duty

/ˈlʌn(t)ʃtʌɪm ˈdjuːti/

noun

(Oops, sorry, I totally forgot to do this one – Ed.)

mastery

/ˈmɑːst(ə)ri/ 

noun

a Rorschach inkblot, often associated with a curriculum, which can be interpreted to mean absolutely anything a person sees in it when they look at it.

mindset

/ˈmʌɪn(d)sɛt/ 

noun

the mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of a situation; according to psychologists, there are three types: fixed and growth (Dweck), and dirty (Freud).

red pen

/rɛd pɛn/

noun

principle weapon of torture, used by teachers who don’t take children’s feelings into account (cf. the marking pen chart below, showing the range colours preferable to use when marking); red pen is also famously mentioned in the old adage of teacher lore that goes, “Red pen at night: normal. Red pen in the morning: I fell asleep doing my marking last night.”

Spectrum of colours preferable to use when marking children’s work, in order to not cause unnecessary anxiety. ‘Sensitive White’ is a popular choice.

retention deficit disorder (RDD)

/rɪˈtɛnʃ(ə)n/

noun

an employment disorder that can be found in the U.K. education sector; it is characterised by a person openly lamenting teacher turnover whilst they are simultaneously creating the conditions that cause teachers to leave their jobs, e.g., “Justine Greening spoke earnestly about the ‘challenges on recruitment and retention, but also on workload’, just before she announced a funding formula that will see 98% of state schools’ funding cut.”

self-assessment

/sɛlf əˈsɛsmənt/

noun

process in which children show that they have had enough of the topic being studied; this is sometimes done by the pupil displaying an emoticon of a smiley face, or through the use of traffic light colours, but is more commonly achieved by the children putting their thumbs up, as pioneered by Scottish pupil James Krankie in the late 1970s (see image below); however, it should be noted that Krankie is still at school some 40 years later, which may be an indication that this method is a flawed way of gauging a pupil’s learning.

James Krankie, eternal schoolboy and pioneer of the thumbs up method of self-assessment

 

 

 

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A Glossary of U.K. Education (Vol. 1)

Debates around education on social media can sometimes be hard to follow if you aren’t well versed in the jargon of education in the U.K. With that in mind, we’ve produced this handy glossary of commonly-used terms.

academisation

/əˈkadəmʌɪˈzeɪʃ(ə)n/

noun

1. the process in which a school undertakes a Faustian pact resulting in the handing over of its pupil data to Amazon, the selling of the school fields to Starbucks, and eternal damnation for all staff in exchange for better SATs/GCSE results.

or

2. the process in which a school merely alters a word on their signage and stationery.

children

/ˈtʃɪldrən/

noun

small human beings cared about by progressives and hated by traditionalists.

free school

/friː ˌskuːl/

noun

evil, bloodsucking entity, set up to appease the greed of its vengeful ruler by educating the children of the local community.

Gove, Michael

/ɡəʊv ˌˈmkəl/

noun

pantomime villain, originally from Old English folklore where he is often depicted as having the body of a Tory MP and the head of an agitated baby; in many stories in which he features, Gove is vilified by the adults of the village for trying to give their children more knowledge.

Grüppwerk

/ɡruːpˈvəːk/

noun

Kraftwerk tribute band marked by their performance style in which one of the members arranges all of the songs, plays all of the instruments and prepares all of the lighting, sound and stagecraft, whilst the rest of the band take the opportunity to muck about and do nothing.

learning styles

/ˈləːnɪŋ ˌstʌɪlz/

noun

antimicrobial resistent organism that continues to thrive despite numerous attempts to medicate against it.

literacy

/ˈlɪt(ə)rəsi/

noun

word used as part of a compound noun to give an air of legitimacy to an otherwise woolly term, e.g., digital literacyvisual literacyliteracy literacy.

neo-

/niːə(ʊ)/

prefix

versatile combining form that can be adjoined to the beginning of any noun in order to make that thing sound more sinister than it actually is.

neo-trad

/niːə(ʊ)ˈtrad/

prefix

traditionalist, only more sinister. Synonyms: right-wingTory, Nazi, Sith Lord, Agent of Hydra.

Ofsted

/ɒfstɛd/

noun

capricious inspectorate, prone to systematically dishing out unfair judgements. Unless that judgement is ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’, in which case it is entirely accurate and should be emblazoned across letterheads and banners. 

pedagogy

/ˈpɛdəɡɒdʒi/

noun

from the Greek παιδός, (paidos), “teachy”, and ἄγω (ágō), “teaching”: literally, “teachy teaching”.

progressive

/prəˈɡrɛsɪv/

noun

1. a teacher committed to the values of progressivism.

or

2. a teacher just out of initial teacher training.

Robinson, Sir Ken

/ˈrɒbɪns(ə)n ˌˈsəː ˈkɛn/

noun

chivalrous knight of YouTubian legend; the folk tales tell of how Sir Ken is bestowed with a golden tongue by TED the Enchanter, and of how he uses this tongue to defeat the Great Sages of Rote Wisdom by invoking the Spirits of Dance.

rote learning

/rəʊt ˌˈləːnɪŋ/

noun

1. that which Sir Ken Robinson opposes, instead suggesting more dance in the curriculum.

2. the most common and effective way to learn how to dance.

Shift Happens

/ʃɪft ˈhap(ə)nz/

noun

bullshit.

traditionalism

/trəˈdɪʃ(ə)nəlɪz(ə)m/

noun

a diabolical cult dedicated the denigration of fun, posters, role play and group work; based on ideology (cf. progressivism, which is ideology-free and entirely based on pragmatism and principles); followers of traditionalism dislike children and can be mostly found in schools.

troll

/trɒl,trəʊl/

verb

to disagree with a view on education that one holds; this is a transitive verb which can only be done unto the first person me and not unto second or third person pronouns such as him, her or you – “he trolled me” is correct usage, whereas “I trolled her/you” is incorrect.

noun

someone who disagrees with your view on education.

 

 

5 useful online resources for English teachers

There are a number of resources I return to again and again online, in order to either find useful texts for pupils to read, or to deepen my contextual knowledge of texts. Here are five sites I think are really helpful.

JSTOR Understanding Shakespeare 

This is a brilliant resource that connects digital texts from the Folger Shakespeare Library with articles on the JSTOR digital library. As the strapline tells us: “Pick a play. Click a line. Instantly see articles on JSTOR that reference the line.” 

Below is a screenshot that shows you how it works. I’ve chosen the line “‘Tis an unweeded garden / That grows to seed.” from Hamlet’s first soliloquy (Act 1, Scene 2). You can see that there are 53 references to this line in JSTOR. It lists them on the right of the screen, and by hovering over each one, you can see the page of the article on which it is referenced.
In the referenced page on the example above, you can see how the line can be seen as part of a tradition of similar references to husbandry as a metaphor for kingliness and national security across a number of Shakespeare’s plays. Illuminating, right?

The British Library Articles 

I love these. Here you can browse some really interesting articles on Shakespeare and the Renaissance, Romantics and Victorians, and Twentieth Century literature. All of the articles are linked to items in the British Library’s collection (mainly original manuscripts), with embedded slideshows throughout the articles exploring these items. There’s some really useful contextual stuff here.

CommonLit

This is an American website containing “a free collection of fiction and nonfiction for 5th-12th grade classrooms”. It is a wonderful digital resource.

You can search texts based on the grade they are aimed at (just add 1 to get the UK equivalent age: 6th grade is the same as Year 7 in the UK), or by the text’s Lexile range. Or – and this is where it is really useful – you can search it based on theme, genre (looking for speeches or short stories?), or by a short list of books that the texts link to (for example, searching for texts linked to Animal Farm returns some nonfiction articles on Stalin and the Russian Revolution, among other things). You can also search for texts based on linguistic and rhetorical devices, so if you are looking for examples of hyperbole or dramatic irony, the search will return texts that contain these.

What’s more, each text comes with a series of questions to help comprehension. And you can download each text as a PDF (which includes these questions).

BBC History – British History

With some articles, some iWonder pages and some BBC archive videos, this is a really useful source of contextual information for literature texts. With pages on the Tudors, the Victorians and some key moments of the Jacobean period (to name but a few useful touchstones for English teachers), there are some great resources here.

English Heritage – Story of England

In a similar style to the BBC History site, English Heritage’s simple timelines and overviews of the key periods in English history are a valuable resource. Not only is this organised by period, you can also explore it by themes such as Power & Politics, Religion, Daily Life, and Arts & Invention. Have a look and see what you think.

Teachers: @TesResources has a problem and they want you to work harder to deal with it

TES Resources has a problem. Its resource sharing platform is riddled with copyright infringements. What are they going to do about it? Well, they are going to ask you to add to the already burgeoning workload of hardworking teachers and get you to police it. As if you don’t already have enough to do.

TES Resources is a great platform. It allows teachers to share resources freely with hundreds of colleagues up and down the country. It truly exemplifies the collegial spirit of teaching. Well, it did.

It did until July 2014, when they announced that teachers would be able to start selling the resources they were already sharing for free. They sold this move as ‘teacher empowerment’. Weirdly, this announcement didn’t mention the cut that they were taking from these transactions.

Now, I have been very outspoken about the selling of resources on social media in recent times, but this post isn’t about my moral objections to teachers selling resources to one another.

This week, it was brought to my attention that a resource that I shared freely on this blog had actually been copied and was being sold on TES Resources for £3 a pop. It had been on the website for nearly 2 years and had received a number of downloads.

I should point out that the aim of this post isn’t to vilify the individuals concerned in this practice. Not because the practice isn’t reprehensible, but rather that, in the spirit of charity, I am happy to concede that some people may do this in complete ignorance that they have taken this idea from someone or that there is a victim of their actions. People make mistakes, and if they show contrition for those mistakes, I’m happy to move on.

In the case of my resource, TES were straight on the case once I’d brought it to their attention and are investigating as we speak. In the first instance they have taken down the resource. I wait with interest to see if there is any attempt to remunerate the injured party. After all, someone has made money from something I chose to give freely. (Should such remuneration arrive, I have earmarked my local paediatric oncology ward to receive the funds – it is a charity that is very close to my tutor group and me, for reasons which I shan’t go into here.)

However, like the mythological hydra, as soon as TES had sliced off this head, another one grew back in its place. It was brought to my attention the next evening that another of my resources that I’ve shared freely was on sale for £4 on the site.

And I am not the only one, large numbers of people have offered me evidence that the TES platform is riddled with people selling others’ resources.

Here are a few examples that came shortly after I made a request on Twitter last night. Important to note that these are just the ones who were up, saw my tweet and responded. I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg:

Not only that, as the last tweet suggests, this practice is driving people away from using the platform to share resources freely:

This might suggest that more sold resources on TES = fewer free ones.

And there are plenty more responses where all these came from. I’m sure you get the picture.

So what are TES Resources going to do about it. Actually, it’s more what they expect you to do about it. They want you – hardworking teachers, already overburdened with a burgeoning workload – they want you to police the site for them.

That’s right. Rather than come up with a way to police this themselves, they are asking us to identify stolen content. Imagine if the police said they wouldn’t deal with antisocial behaviour in your neighbourhood unless you went out and brought the assailants into the police station yourself?

Quite how they want busy teachers to do this is beyond me. Do they want us to do a regular search weekly? Monthly? And what should we search for? I produce lots of resources every month – are we supposed to search for everything we’ve ever produced and shared? Do they not get that we are very busy? Have they not read the pages of their own publication, drowning in articles on workload? Why do they think people use the site for resources in the first place? To save time. Now they want to us to use that time to work for them in managing their site, for free.

Nope. This is on you, TES. You can’t pass this off onto already overworked teachers.

Was this a problem before TES introduced selling? Well, yes, I’m sure people uploaded resources that weren’t their own. But the difference is they weren’t profiting. I share my resources freely, so someone else uploading it means that it will still be shared freely. Okay, so the lack of credit may irk, but that can be easily addressed.

What would I do if I were the TES? I’d embrace the collegial nature of the profession and of sharing freely and leave the cynical hawking of resources to other sites. But whatever they do, the responsibility is theirs to kill off this heinous practice on their site. Over to you, TES.

You aren’t a brand; you’re a teacher

“The best way to build a brand is to take a three-foot length of malleable iron and get one end red-hot. Then, apply it vigorously to the buttocks of the instructor who gave you this question. You want a nice, meaty sizzle.”

This was veteran Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten’s public response to the question, “How have you built your personal brand over the years?”, as asked by a journalism graduate from Northwestern University.

It is similar to how I feel when I hear people talk about teachers as brands. Only yesterday, I witnessed advice from a high profile headteacher for teachers and leaders to “work on your personal brand” if you want to get ahead. The insistence that we must think about our brand rather than say, what we are teaching (or what we are leading on), is not just a distraction: it’s irresponsible.

It’s easy to read the rest of Weingarten’s response to the student and imagine he’s talking about education. I’ve replaced the words ‘journalism’ and ‘writing’ with [teaching] here:

“You used the expression ‘built your personal brand.’

I want us to let that expression marinate in its own foulness for a moment, like a turd in a puddle of pee, as we contemplate its meaning and the devastating weight of its implications. This is a term born of the new approach to [teaching], a soulless, marketing approach that goes hand in hand with the modern tendency to denigrate [teaching] by calling it “content,” as though everything is mere filler — fluff and stuffing in the decorative throw pillows of what passes for news. It is symptomatic of a general degradation of [teaching] that rewards ubiquity, not talent…”

I am certain that people who are able to make careers out of teaching do so because of the talent they have. Why take a “soulless, marketing” approach to that career by focusing on themselves as a brand?

Weingarten says that the commodification of journalists as brands means that writers “used to give readers what we thought they needed. Now, in desperation, we give readers what we think they want.”

Is this the implication of teachers and leaders becoming brands? Does it imply no longer giving pupils (and other teachers) what we think they need and instead giving them what we think they want?

The problem with foregrounding branding is that it backgrounds the important things about teaching and leading. The things that actually count. Continuing on the subject of writing, Weingarten continues:

“Branding – the whole notion gets it backwards, as though the purpose of writing is self-aggrandizement and self-promotion. That’s what riles me about that whole idea. We want to tell truth, because we want to entertain, because we want to disclose things that need to be disclosed, because we want to hold government to a high standard, all of those reasons are good. Somewhere around reason 6,407 is where brand promotion should be.”

I feel exactly the same about teaching: we want to teach because we want to make kids cleverer, because we want them to go out and connect with and understand the world, because we want them to take part in life and join the “conversation of mankind“, because we want them to create the future. All of those reasons are good. And, likewise, somewhere around reason 6,407 is where brand promotion should be for teachers.

Put simply:

“Note the order. First came the work.

Now, the first goal seems to be self-promotion — the fame part, the ‘brand.'”

Teachers and leaders should concentrate on their craft, on what they are achieving, rather than answering the questions “how do people see you?” and “how do you want to be seen?” – questions which came from the advice mentioned at the beginning of this blog. Answering those questions and concentrating on ‘your brand’ will most likely lead to superficiality and, in turn, most likely more work for the teachers around you. So listen to Weingarten. Don’t let teaching go this way too:

“We are slowly redefining our craft so it is no longer a calling but a commodity. From this execrable marketing trend arises the term: ‘branding.'”

A tour of Stock Photos Academy

We are delighted to welcome you to Stock Photos Academy, a brilliant new free school located in the heart of the country.

We are proud of our focus on learning and on nurturing the next generation.

We hope you enjoy having a look around our school, which we think is a very special place.

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We’ll start the tour in the sixth form, where we stream the students depending on how photogenic they are. This is the top set in Maths. Here, Maths teacher Mr. Smith is making his pi/pie joke. The sixth formers bloody love that joke.

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Whilst the sixth form offers traditional subjects, we are also able to offer special courses too to get those valuable UCAS points. Here, our pupils are taking a short course in, erm, Spectacles Studies.

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As you can see here, we have invested heavily in technology and have whole class sets of tablets. Unfortunately, we only have one charger though.

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Our teachers bloody love chalk. Just the thought of using it makes them excited. You should see how satisfied they look when they get to use it.

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See?

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From Year 7 to the sixth form, our teachers only ever ask really easy questions that everyone can answer.

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Here’s sixth former Stephen from earlier. He’s still thinking about Mr. Smith’s pi/pie joke.

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If anyone knows where the whiteboard rubber is from the Maths room, please let us know?

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Our canteen dinners are delicious! The plain, unaccompanied pasta is always the most popular choice amongst our pupils which tells you everything you need to know about how great our chefs are.

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Mrs. Sumner is very happy. She’s very happy because she teaches at Stock Photos Academy. She’s also very happy because she loves her subject. But mostly she’s very happy because her Year 10 class are away on work experience.

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We really need to get some blinds in our classrooms. There’s more lens flare than a J.J. Abrams film here.

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This is the, er… no, sorry, I’ve no idea what’s going on here… Can someone go and see if Mr Baxter is okay? I think he might be having another breakdown.

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Here’s Mr. Cartwright working out the predicted 9-1 grades for our Year 11s preparing to sit the new GCSEs. As you can see, his concentration has reached meditative levels.

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If there’s one thing our teachers do really well, it’s standing at the back of the class with their arms folded, ignoring the children. Outstanding!

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We knew that the recruitment crisis would mean taking on some unqualified teachers in shortage areas. We didn’t realise we’d be this desperate though. We have since sacked the netball coach after he promised to bring stability to the team, and they just got worse. The Chemistry teacher asked the pupils to decide if they should remain in the classroom or exit. They chose to exit and he buggered off to let someone else clear up the ensuing mess. The Food Tech teacher is very unpopular but we’re finding it hard to get rid of him. And as for the new lower school Teaching Assistant… she’s terrible, but we’re going to have to keep her as the alternatives seem to be even worse.

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Oh, and there’s Mr. Smith again, thinking about his pi/pie joke.

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