Last month, December 2018, I was very fortunate to visit Hong Kong. This trip was a combination of work and leisure. I was presenting at the Asia-Pacific International Schools Conference (known as AISC) and the timing of the conference was perfect as it was at the end of the winter term at my school here in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi. Therefore after the conference, I was able to spend a week exploring Hong Kong – it was my first time visiting Hong Kong. I absolutely loved it, both the conference and the sightseeing. I wanted to share and reflect on my trip.
I didn’t blog much in 2018 because I was so busy writing my book Love To Teach: Research and Resources for every classroom, which is available to buy now. You can order my book on Amazon here or from the John Catt Education website here.
I have been absolutely delighted with the feedback so far about my book as I know educators from the UK, UAE, USA, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Hong Kong that have read my book so far!
I regularly review educational books on my site and whilst this post was originally intended to be another review I have decided to go beyond the story in The tattooist of Auschwitz to discuss the historical context of the novel in addition to the central story. The tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is based on the true story of Holocaust survivors Lale and Gita Sokolov. The story is about how they met and fell in love in a concentration camp. It has become one of the bestselling and most talked about novels of 2018.
I’ve recently just completed writing my first book! It has been a long and at times challenging process but also very enjoyable and exciting. Love To Teach: Research and Resources for Every Classroom is due to be published next month with John Catt Education – you can pre-order it on Amazon here. Anyway, this blog post is about reading not writing but a large part of the process of writing my book involved reading and engaging with educational research. Even before I decided to write a book I was reading a lot of books about education, linked to my subject specialism, pedagogy, leadership, literacy and much more. I read a very interesting article in The Guardian by teacher and author Carl Hendrick suggesting ten educational books that he believes all teachers should read. I started to make my way through the list suggested by Carl Hendrick (I have yet to read Daisy Christodoulou 7 Myths and Trivium 21C despite their popularity!). Inspired by this list I have created my own list with my favourite books linked to education. I am very aware there is a lack of diversity amongst the books I have selected. There are many wonderful female authors that I can highly recommend such as Mary Myatt, Jill Berry, Debra Kidd, Sarah Findlater and Nina Jackson. This list was based purely on my favourite books linked to education but I am aware the majority of the books below are written by men. This is the list of my favourite books and I believe every book deserves its place in my top spot list.
It’s no secret that more and more qualified teachers are leaving the UK to teach internationally. In January 2017 there were a total of 8,646 international schools – 3326 of those teaching a British Curriculum. There is a predicted growth forecast of 16,900 international schools to be built by 2027 so qualified British teachers will become even more in demand!
In August 2016 I became one of the estimated 100,000 qualified British teachers who for some reason or other ditch the drizzle in the UK to teach abroad. After a holiday to Dubai during the February half term, I made the decision to start applying for jobs in the United Arab Emirates, this was a very big change for me a village girl who had only taught in one school for six years so very daunting but also very exciting!
I discovered a quote by Jennifer Gonzalez where she interviewed Cognitive Scientist Pooja Agarwal “Retrieval practice: The most powerful learning strategy you’re not using” (you can listen to the podcast interview here) and this resonated with me because it wasn’t a strategy I was using for many years during my teaching career. Teachers often have so much content to get through that little time can be spent revisiting prior learning and subject content previously covered – I was guilty of this. Each lesson or week I would work my way through delivering new content on the specification or scheme of work and return to recall knowledge and understanding at a much later date. On reflection, it seems obvious that revisiting a topic 12 months later (or longer!) in the classroom just before the exam won’t be as effective as regular recall and retrieval.
Twitter is (or can be) a wonderful source of networking, sharing, discussion, debate and learning. There are so many communities on Twitter. I was quite oblivious to most of these communities as I have been in my own Twitter bubble with the wonderful “EduTwitter” community. There are even smaller communities within the EduTwitter community – such as WomenEd, BameEd, Edtech, leadership and subject-specific groups such as the History teacher community. These online communities are not exclusive and everyone is free to read what others share ( private accounts can restrict who can view their profile).
Over the holidays I always enjoy spending time reading – from a John Grisham thriller to a historical or educational book. I love to read in different locations too – from my own home, the pool, beach, coffee shops – anywhere nice, quiet and relaxing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Made to Stick by the Heath brothers – perhaps more so because I read it during the holidays where time becomes a luxury and it’s easier to switch off from the to-do list usually on my mind!
The comic strip has often been a popular go-to resource and activity for teachers. They can provide an overview of events, tell a story and so on. However, the comic strip task can also be an activity that is a time waster and not support learning – wasting precious lesson time and simply keeping learners busy which of course is not good. The issues with the comic strip are that pupils can spend too much time on the illustrations and colouring rather than focusing on the captions and information, although many pupils can effectively communicate their understanding and knowledge through illustrations too. When using technology to create comic strips pupils can again place the focus on the layout, design and other features rather than the actual content. Dual coding ( combining written information with visuals to support) has become a widely recognised as an effective strategy to support learning and comic strips are a great example of this. I do believe that with guidance, clearly explained success criteria and a modelled example the comic strip can work very well in the classroom. You can watch an excellent video explanation of dual coding by the learning scientists here.