Thursday, February 12, 2009

Learning Day

I do feel ever so guilty really. Haven't written a thing in the blog since last Sunday. I did have a chance to write on Monday Evening, but I couldn't think of anything to say, and since I often think it's better to say nothing than write a load of drivel, I wrote nothing. Don't worry, by the way, I may be at work, but it's still before the start of the working day and I have a few minutes to myself, so I'll use them.

Yesterday was a "Learning Day". I'm sure that must be a tautology or a teliology or something. Isn't every day in a school a Learning Day, because it ought to be. However, our Learning Days are supposed to be something a bit different.

It seems that the current idea in education in England is that teaching "old fashioned" subjects such as History, or Geography, are old hat and ought to be done away with. The new trend is to do "project work" which I think I was doing at Junior School (or was it Primary or Elementary School - I forget the changing terms for the same thing) but of course the movers and shakers in 21st Century education don't remember that.

The School that I work in was built in the early 1950s and is a really beautiful school. It has a huge entrance hall, a vast Assembly Hall with a full sized theatrical stage, wide corridors and solid wood floors. In a couple of years it is to be pulled down to make way for a new 21st Century School. When the plans to do this were first produced one of our local politicians was heard to say, "I don't care if it has a medal from the Royal Society of Architects, that was 50 years ago, we want something that can inspire in the 21st Century." With thinking like that I can only say, "God Help Michealangelo Buonarotti and Leonardo da Vinci - they were 500 years ago"

So school will probably be pulled down and replaced by a glass and breeze block school which will have narrow, harsh corridors but which will inspire minds in the 21st Century!

Anyway, back to Learning Day. We had three classes, one each from years 7, 8 & 9, so 90 girls across the 11 - 14 age range. Split into teams of 3, one from each age group, each team was given a name out of history (the names ranged across history from good old Guillaume le Conquerant to John Lennon. An eclectic mix if ever there was one. The project group was from the History, ICT and Music Departments.

So the students were asked to work together as a team, each of them having a specific role within the team. They were asked to plan their work, gather resources, create a suitable slideshow using Microsoft Moviemaker and present it to the group. Their movie had to have pictures, a narrative, suitable background music and a speech track overlayed, and it had to be 3 minutes long.

That's actually hard work, three minutes is a long time. We showed them an example that we based on one of Terry Deary's "Horrible History" CD's. The one on the Tudors. It's very funny and has the refrain

Henry the Eighth was a big fat man
He ate all the food in the frying pan
If he'd have been a little bit littler
He wouldn't have ended up like Adolph Hitler

I know. Not excactly Shakespeare, but it is pretty funny and it gave them the idea that they were allowed to be entertaining with their work.

We had a really good day, or at least I thought that we did. Everyone worked really pretty hard at it and there were some very good results. Oh, I forgot to say that the students were asked to produce a resource for use by Year 7, 11 year olds, and the results, on the whole, did that job well. Yes, we got some oddities, like the group who consistently referred to the hero of Trafalgar as "Nelson Horatio". That tells you a lot about the value placed on History by the modern education system. When MP's find out that modern British students don't know who Horatio Nelson was, they will scream blue murder and demand that History is taught properly. (By properly they usually mean lists of names and dates). Nothing changes though. History doesn't matter in Britain these days. I've probably mentioned before that only two countries in Europe do not insist that all students study History to the age of 16, those two countries are Britain and Albania. It's so nice to be in such august company. Still, let us remember George Santayana, who, in his book "Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1," wrote the often misquoted words "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Not that that ever seems to bother politicians, or bankers for that matter, and I did say BANKERS.

Okay then, off to teach. Those who can, teach, those who cannot teach go into politics and tell the teachers what to do! Sayonara!

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