50 shades of tat

A friend gave me the following information: Charity shops are receiving two donations of "Fifty shades of Grey" for every one that they sell. It makes me wonder: Who is buying the book? I was also informed that due to the production techniques of the publisher the book can't be easily disposed of as recycled waste.

When I was at my dentists I heard the following conversation:

Woman 1: "Have you read the "Fifty shades of Grey" book?"

Woman 2: "No. I've bought it, but I haven't got around to reading it yet."

Woman 1: "I've started reading it but it's rubbish"

Woman 2: "I've heard that you need to start from page 80. It gets good after that."

So a woman who hasn't yet read the book is giving advice to a woman who is reading the book! There's nothing better than the blind leading the short-sighted.

There is no doubting the sales figures of the book. It is claimed to be the fastest selling paperback of all time in the UK, achieving 100,000 sales in one week. I wonder if it is the most unread book of all time too?

But this isn't about 'mummy-porn'. As ever it is the similarity with education that I notice. The book's popularity has been attributed to the actions of "frustrated middle-aged mothers." It can only be assumed that buying the book became a popular past-time for a certain type of person based on nothing more than copycat activities.

The teachers of the UK are, I would hope, capable of more rational thinking than this. Would you expect teachers to take part in teaching activities just because they heard that someone else in another school was doing it? Would you expect teachers to buy books, or attend courses and then NOT use the methodology that they have acquired? Would you expect that frustrated professionals are desperately trying to improve their impact on their pupils' learning using any method possible, the easier the better?

If you're a teacher, you probably know the answer to these questions.

One of the aims of a teacher is to produce resilience in learning. This means starting a task and then sticking to it, especially when the learning gets difficult. I'm not sure that this is possible if you don't know how to be resilient yourself. I've presented training courses and also attended quite a few as a delegate. Some of those courses have been superb. But the biggest question any trainer needs to know is "What fizzle-factor is there in the school?" Many schools have shelves upon shelves of training guides brought back by keen teachers. If the school has a high fizzle-factor, the buzz created on the training day soon turns back into business-as-usual.

Are you still thinking about the analogy with "Fifty shades"?

It is clear that teachers are keen to improve the learning outcomes of their pupils. Unfortunately there are those 'Mini-max' teachers who aim to do the least amount possible whilst hoping to extract the maximum amount of discernible learning. There are also 'I have only one way' teachers who won't ever consider changing what is for them a winning formula (I say, you do).

Then there are those teachers who still think like learners. They try different approaches to teaching knowing that they will probably be required to adapt to the needs of their different learners. They aim to find pupil misconceptions that are new so that they understand the learning process even more. A good teacher conducts research lesson after lesson with their pupils. To hear a pupil who is unsure of a concept should turn a teacher into a learning-detective. How can that pupil have arrived at that point? What would help the pupil to move on to a correct conclusion? This can only be done through questioning. It cannot be done solely through reading a book, but reading about it is a great place to start.

The last thing that we want though is people thinking that ownership of a set of course notes is equivalent to implementing those activities that are shown to make a difference. It is the duty of every pupil to learn how to learn. As such, it is the duty of every teacher to teach with learning in mind. Learning doesn't happen when you teach; it happens when a pupil learns.

It is time for you to look at your teaching guides and books. Have you got 50 shades of untouched material on your shelves?  Did you acquire them as a frustrated teacher or did you want to expand your repertoire of skills? Have you embedded them in your teaching? Are they covered in grey dust?

Perhaps you had better start from page 80.