Showing posts from June, 2015

Approaching the elephant: reflections on school culture

I recently watched the film Approaching the elephant

I walked away from the film feeling exhausted. Not because of the length of the film but rather I had been consumed by the lives of the teachers and children whose lives were embroiled in a school environment that is unfamiliar to me. The film explores the experience of being in a free school. Until recently I knew nothing about free schools. According to the prologue of the films, the idea of free schools goes back to the early 1900s. The film shows us a structure that is unfamiliar to many of us who have gone through traditional systems of education. In a free school there are no structured lessons. Students and teachers make decisions democratically through council meetings that can also be chaired by the students. By students I mean children: most of the students at the free school featured in the movie appear to be younger than 13. The only rules in place when the school begins are ru…

Teaching is like eating an olive

Teaching is like eating an olive: bitter-sweet. Bitter because olives are disgusting (or some would say an acquired taste) and like teaching, some aspects of teaching are unpleasant (marking exams). Sweet because eating olives has health benefits that I don't necessarily see nor feel; the same way that I won't necessarily see the results of some of the labour I put in with my students. I'm sure my students could think of better analogies about the relationship between teaching and learning because they have many opinions about what happens in the classroom.

I've been helping a student who has asked for help because she struggles with comprehension exercises. Every week she reads a comprehension exercise and answers questions which she gives to me to mark. Once I've marked her work we sit together and talk through her answers. While marking her most recent submission I wondered what she thinks about when approaching these exercises. I also got the feeling that she m…