Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Thoughts of Chairman Bigdork

Wes Bigd... sorry, Brett Wigdortz OBE has an impressive string of achievements to his name, strangely omitting a business school (which was where I imagined he must have learnt that the best disguise for wooly thinking is wooly language). In an interview in  The Times (quoted in a recent Saturday's Magazine) he said:
You are now ['Now?' I suppose it made sense in the original interview, which I haven't seen.] more likely to  do well on free school meals [??? What's he talking about? Thriving nutritionally?] in an inner city than in a coastal town where you are not. [WTF? This person starts in an inner city and then has an existential crisis when moving to the coast? ]
Think about it. You'll probably need a long time. You see what he's done? The first You and the second you are different people. He has no doubt been on a writing course that tells you [oh yes, I've done that course too] to avoid abstraction by using 'you' as often as possible, regardless. In fact, one of the reviews on Amazon says, self-importantly
Brett writes as though he is talking to each & every [not just each, note] reader personsally [sic].
Read more here if  you must. Some snake-oil looks really tempting. And there are traps for the unwary at every turn: Listed among 'Praise for Success Against the Odds' is Jeremy Paxman's 'Teach First is great. Everyone should do it'. But this isn't about the book at all. For all I know, the next sentence might have been 'This book is utter drivel though; avoid it like the plague.' Or quite possibly the quote came from an edition of Newsnight that predates the writing of the book entirely. Anyway, caveat emptor (or as Woody Allen said in an aside, when a grossly exaggerated compliment bore fruit, 'She bought it!)

So the trick worked.You can fool all of the people all of the time.

OK – time's up. My guess at what he meant is that a student disadvantaged enough to qualify for free school meals (however the criteria for allowing that are applied by distinct authorities), at an inner-city school (however that is defined) is more likely to 'do better' (whatever THAT is) than a student without such qualification for state largesse at a school in a coastal town (where the local authority probably applies the free school meals criteria in a totally different way). This sort of meta-meta-meta-statistic (depending on the interaction of a large number of unspoken definitions) always bothers me. Kent's The coastal authority's Mr Bumble may just be having a crack-down on dishing out free meals. Such numbers are the homoeopathic medicine of rational argument: supposedly, the more the criteria are diluted the more potent they are.

Hattie Denington, a [just] survivor of her first year, and a self-styled [but  pseudonymous] 'defector', has written of Teach First's 'survival-of-the-fittest model, and its focus on expansion at any cost' in an illuminating piece entitled Why I Quit Teach First.
I feel it needs to show it [Teach First] can provide adequate support to graduates it already employs before it can justify this kind of expansion [from an intake of 186 graduates in 2003 to a reported '1,261 fresh-faced grads' {oh dear, someone needs to go on a writing course, but the post is worth reading despite this sort of infelicity} this year]. As a Teach First defector, it makes me feel I was ultimately disposable. And given schools are struggling to hold on to teachers in general, this isn’t helping...

...Looking at my classes now, I can’t help thinking I’ve let them down this year [although she has become what some observers have called a 'good' teacher] – that any experienced, carefully trained teacher in my place would have given them more. I might have made a great teacher with time, who knows? But the bitter experience of single-handedly letting down whole classes of children has driven me, and a number of others like me, away from the profession altogether.
Education is at least as important as Tony Blair said all those years ago. It needs more than some Big Society posturing (Teach First is a charity)  and amateur meddling by sometimes well-intentioned whizz kids.


A low blow, I grant. But when reading Amazon reviews I can't help recalling Walter Raleigh's [no not that one, the professor, author of "Wishes of an Elderly Man, Wished at a Garden Party, June 1914"]:

I wish I loved the human race
I wish I loved its silly face
I wish I loved the way it walks
I wish I loved the way it talks

And when I'm introduced to one

I wish I thought 'What jolly fun!'
Update 2014.07.27.19:20 – Correction. 'Kent' mention was irrelevant . I got my wires crossed

Update 2014.07.29.10:45 –  Various typo-fixes, and added links

 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources:  over 44,640 views  and well over 6,000 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,250 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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