Thursday, May 05, 2011

What I've been doing the last while

3.1 Reflect upon your own past and current learning experiences. How were you taught, which theoretical perspectives have you experienced? (750 words)

I was born in the 1950s and my educational experiences were typical for someone from my class and background from that time. I went to a working class primary school, which I loved, and then to a grammar school, which I hated.  The former gave me intellectual aspirations and the latter crushed them completely, removing any joy I might have had in formal learning for many years.  I left school at 16 and went through a succession of uninspiring jobs until at 24 I decided to return to education.
My  primary school was an Edwardian-built mixed infants and junior school whose architecture matched the red-brick Edwardian terraces that surrounded it in an area that might best be described as ‘poor but respectable’ working class.   Its teaching methods were highly traditional and based on the ‘3 Rs’ with a considerable amount of rote learning (e.g. times tables, the alphabet).
The dominant theory supporting my teachers’ activities might be broadly described as behaviourist. Good conduct and academic success were rewarded with gold stars and position in class, praise from the teacher, added responsibilities, and more freedom to learn by developing one’s own interests ( top flight students were given greater access to the small school library when the ‘dunces’ were learning their times tables etc). There were no physical punishments for the failure to learn, but neither was there any accommodation for different needs – if one didn’t perform one was relegated to a lower form and/or a place at the back of the class. Exams and tests figured highly and status was often all that was at stake.
In addition to the behaviouristic approaches my teachers also adopted what I refer to as the ‘Von Ryan’s Express/How Green is My Valley’ model of pedagogy. That is, teachers working in poor or deprived  areas in that period tended to focus their efforts on a small number of pupils whom, they believed, had the potential to slip the bounds of their class destiny, get a scholarship and  go on to greater things.  If one of them got away, then the effort was deemed worth it.
If you fell into that group, then your learning experience tended to be based more on cognitive principles. You were allowed to learn by doing and encouraged to follow your own path within the general framework.  I, for example, learned about statistics and graphs by being placed in charge of the school weather station.  The school provided equipment and the teachers a framework of support and encouragement.  I played Scrabble and Monopoly in French before I did in English, because a number of Francophile teachers translated their love into French lessons for the under-8s. For my relatively privileged group, our education was an exercise in emancipation from class destiny and social determinism that Paulo Friere would have admired.
Inevitably, I passed the 11 plus and from that point it all went downhill. Park High School for Boys was a leftover from another era, when grammar schoolboys played rugby and took a lot of cold showers. Its primary goal was to produce solid and stolid members of the lower middle class, a proportion of whom studied science and engineering at university and the rest of whom got steady jobs in the middle management tiers of the civil service and the private sector.  A small minority would also become teachers and take their place in schools like Park High.
The approach to learning was crudely behaviouristic – academic failure was punished brutally by physical or psychological means. Corporal punishment was routinely administered in a variety of forms. A failure to conjugate a Latin verb could result in a thwack with a gym-shoe. The inability to recite Newton’s laws of motion on demand would receive a blow to the head from a wooden chalk duster. Homework marks were read out in assembly every second Friday. 70 percent was the minimal acceptable grade. Defaulters knew who they were because their names were not read out. The anonymous ones could be seen lining up after assembly outside the Deputy Head’s office to receive a more personal form of punishment for their intellectual failures.
Rewards only came if one survived to the 6th Form when one became a member of  a privileged, university-bound elite who bestrode the school corridors and quadrangles like colossi, confident in their privileges and the power they had over lesser members of the school.
By 13 I had given up all hope of a genuine education and concentrated on survival until it was time to leave. I put in sufficient effort to avoid punishment and pass exams, but the real learning took place outside school in the public libraries.  For many years I became, like Sartre’s character in Nausea, an autodidact, unsystematically sucking up knowledge by the shelf-load without a clear idea of how to evaluate it or understand it critically. 
These experiences influence my current approach to teaching and learning far more than anything I have learned subsequently, if only because they tell me what not to do in my own practice

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Mr Hicks, Me Arse

It's a shame this arrived so late in the day, but it still brought a lump to my throat at 7.15am this morning. But maybe Hicks & Gillette will see it, do the right thing and let the proposed sale to New England Sports Ventures,  who own the Boston Red Sox, go through. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hurricane Higgins: Wasted talent hangs up his cue

I met this git half a dozen times in the 1990s. He, in combination with his entourage of lowlife mates, acted the maggot on every occasion. I hated him and I'm glad the woman-beating twat is dead. He was a sad and pathetic bastard who would have done better to top himself after he came back against  Jimmy White in 1982. Then at least the 'people's champion' legend might have meant something in a Kurt Cobain kind of way. He was a sad, fucked up Northern Prod who hated his fans almost as much as he hated himself. He got a lot more out of a handful of games of snooker than he ever gave back to the game and he didn't even have a sense of humour. At least George Best, another famously self-destructive Northern Prod, could take the piss out of himself and never approached the level of arrogance I saw Higgins adopt on more than one occasion.

I expect there will be all the usual 'he was a twat, but he was a genius too' beatification shite, but take my word for it, the world of snooker won't be a poorer place for his passing.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Anyone got any travel sickness tablets?

At last, a band named after me

The Beasts of Bourbon, Aussie bastard offspring of an orgy involving Nick Cave, Tom Waits and the New York Dolls by the look/sound of it. De-lovely!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

'Intoxicated with liberty and enthusiasm'

Allons enfants de la Patrie.....

The deputies retired, the people rushed against the place, and almost in an instant were in possession of a fortification, defended by 100 men, of infinite strength, which in other times had stood several regular sieges and had never been taken. How they got in, has as yet been impossible to discover.
Thomas Jefferson, 14th July 1789

<a href="">Storming the Bastille by hereafterthis</a>

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mad songs on the ukele: No 2 in an occasional series

These odd young people live here  and those of you who prefer the original,have a lookee here