Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Where Have All The Passionate Physics Teachers Gone?

This excellent piece first appeared yesterday on the Guardian Science Blog. It is written by Alom Shaha, a physics teacher in the UK, and he asks simply "where have all the passionate physics teachers gone" and pleas for more physicists to become teachers. An excellent post from one of the UK's best teachers and an inspiration to us all. This post has been published here with the author's permission.

My name is Alom Shaha and I am a physics teacher. Far too often, the response I get from introducing myself like this is, "I hated Physics at school", to which I usually reply, "You wouldn't have if I had taught you!"

I'm not just being cocky. Physics is a stimulating, beautiful, exciting subject and I don't think it's that hard to get schoolchildren to appreciate at least some of those qualities. It depresses me that any physics teacher would do such a poor job that his or her students leave school "hating" a subject that covers some of the most interesting and important ideas humans have ever had.

I fear I'll be meeting more and more people who will tell me they hated physics at school – and it won't be their fault. And it won't be the fault of their physics teachers either, because, strictly speaking, these people won't ever have had an actual physics teacher. They will have been deprived of this because of a crisis in English education: there simply aren't enough physics teachers to go round. Instead, the subject is far too often being taught by "non-specialists", teachers who are usually qualified in chemistry or biology. Many of these teachers have not studied physics beyond GCSE and some even actively dislike physics.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Shattering the Myth Of A World Class Education System

In today's Irish Times, Education Editor Seán Flynn takes at how Ireland fares in the most recent OECD report - and apparent we're not "ticking all the right boxes".

The latest OECD findings expose the Irish education system for what it is – a lot less successful than we like to tell ourselves

In the dark days – and there has been a good number of late – we could at least find comfort in the quality of our education system. For years, ministers for education and the teacher unions told us we could take pride in our “world class” education system. It was the magnet that helped to draw inward investment to our shores – and it was something that differentiated us from troubled education systems in Britain and elsewhere. When it came to education, the land of saints and scholars could mix it with the folks at the top table.

It’s not an exaggeration to say this portrayal of the Irish education system was almost entirely based on one authoritative study. In 2000, the OECD/Pisa* survey of 15-year-olds ranked Ireland fifth in literacy, well above the OECD average. This glowing report helped to stifle much-needed debate about the quality of the Irish education system. Naysayers could be rebuked and brought to heel by reference back to that OECD survey. Over the years, the mantra from the Department of Education and the teacher unions became familiar: “We can’t be doing much wrong if we are in the top five in literacy.”

The truth, of course, was more complicated. Ireland performed well in the 2000 literacy survey because it had an inherent advantage, a homogenous school-going population with few migrants. In simple terms, the task of imparting literacy in Irish classrooms was less challenging than that facing teachers in inner-city Paris or in central London.

Monday, December 6, 2010

SCC English Shortlisted for Three Edublog Awards

Our esteemed English department colleagues over at SCC English has been shortlisted in three categories in this year's Edublog Awards. The winners are decided by a public vote and voting is now open! SCC English is shortlisted in the following categories:
  • Best Group Blog (which SCC English won in 2008 and came third in 2009).
  • Best Educational Use of Audio for their excellent "Patterns of Poetry" series.
  • Best Resource Sharing Blog.
You can vote in a few seconds by going to the Edublogs site here, or via the individual links on SCC English here.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Easy Grade Pro

Easy Grade Pro is a suite of software, from Orbis Software designed for educators at all levels and institutions who want powerful but easy to use tools to manage their student results, homework, attendance, efforts and other information. This suite consists of software for desktop and handheld computers. There is now a new web version which means you can access your information from anywhere. I have been using the desktop version on my laptop for the last six years, and honestly would be lost without it. I can easily record attendance and homework / test performance and create both written and web reports for parents. It isn't freeware, but a single licence costs just €34. This can be used year after year, without needing to buy bulky teacher journals. You can find out more information or download an evaluation copy by clicking here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Snow Days!

I must admit, I am feeling particularly lucky to be teaching in St. Columba's College this week. While the snow does mean that getting in and out of the college is practically impossible (given its elevated position on the foot of the Dublin Mountains), it does make the place look rather pretty! Yesterday I spent a few minutes running around the campus (between classes) and took a couple of snaps.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Heathrow Welcome Home Party

This video has absolutely nothing to do with teaching or education but I felt that, with talk of education cuts, our failing economy and the dreadful weather, we could all do with a bit of cheering up. Possibly the most cheerful and hope filled three minutes and six seconds on the web, it's the T-Mobile welcome home party!