Thanksgiving – from me, if not from the turkey

Learning about US education at NCTE’s 2008 Convention

Turkey at Lackland High
I didn’t ask them to bring their Thanksgiving Dinner forward a week, though it was flattering to be accorded that honour, even if, as a vegetarian, I was loath to eat the turkey or the pork on offer. The photo shows a victim (it’s not the bird that gives thanks, we assume) with Suzanne Dreyer and me in the library of Stacey High School at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. Suzanne is Instructional Technologist at Lackland, which involves supporting technology for learning ‘K-12’ (that is, from Kindergarten to the end of high school) – and being a kind of ‘super-teacher’ as well. The tour of the school was an invaluable introduction to the whole range of US schooling – though I was told Lackland isn’t really typical and I could see that Suzanne is exceptionally committed to making the most of the technology.

Welcome, trespassers!The Annual Convention of NCTE (which is the US equivalent of NATE) which Julie Blake, Tim Shortis, Andy Goodwyn and I attended for the next four and a half days, merits more than I have time for tonight. Suffice it to say that we were warmly received and were able to engage in a fascinating exchange of ideas. Chris Warren’s collapsed text idea has now appeared on the US website,, created by Allan Webb of Western Michigan University. And just to make it clear that despite the notice here, we received a warm welcome wherever we went!

What does it mean to be American? British?

US high school students give us their perspective on what it means to be ‘American’ and ‘British’

This YouTube video gives a fascinating insight into what US high school students think it means to be ‘American’ and ‘British’.

It was created by students at Sacramento New Technology High School, USA to help students at Ninestiles Technology College in Birmingham, UK, with a project about identity. Ninestiles doesn’t seem to have produced a reply, which is a pity – but also a great opportunity for others.

See the video on YouTube, where you can choose high quality streaming and see related material.

Interesting footnote: Weed is where George and Lennie have fled from in Of Mice and Men.

The orthographic conscience has been awakened – and it’s on a mission

Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL) is on a mission across the United States: could it happen here?

Alerted by Andrew Mueller’s own blog in The Guardian today, I’ve been delighted to discover that there’s a Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL) in the United States. Furthermore, they are not content to sigh over greengrocers’ apostrophes or groan over bad grammar – they are crossing America from West to East, equipped with marker pens, stickers, white-out and a zeal to remove every aberrant apostrophe and correct every misspelling. They seemed to be having some success: on 11 April, for example, they report on their Typo Hunt Across America blog: ‘Typos Found: 170; Typos Corrected: 100’. Continue reading “The orthographic conscience has been awakened – and it’s on a mission”

Is Wikipedia wicked? To Google or not to Google?

Prescribed reading lists or more information literacy?

After the magnificently named Tara Brabazon’s article on Bowling Google a googly in the Guardian on 22 January, there’s a more measured response to the problems of plagiarism (deliberate or otherwise) from Dr Stephen Thornton of Cardiff University. In this week’s paper he makes a plea for ‘more information literacy’ and a less ‘Stalinist’ approach than Professor Tara’s refusal to mark anything that comes from material she hasn’t prescribed for her first year students.

Sack the bad teachers – Woodhead must go!

Ofsted now rates the teacher training provided at Buckingham as just “satisfactory”

Hugh Muir reports in today’s Guardian that ‘Ofsted now rates the teacher training provided at Buckingham – the only private university in England – as just “satisfactory”.’ Oh dear, and that’s where the teachers’ friend, former chief inspector of schools (and occasional Telegraph columnist) Chris Woodhead now works, along with Professor Anthony O’Hear, once Mrs Thatcher’s education guru, and Professor Alan Smithers. As Muir comments, ‘Must raise standards, they always say. Certainly we must.’

Is this what they mean by a private education? Or just unfair?

Pupils at private school discover their teacher in ‘shocking soft-porn’ advert on YouTube, Daily Mail reports – and the teacher disputes it

Pupils at private school discover their teacher in ‘shocking soft-porn’ advert on YouTube, Daily Mail reports

‘Is this what all English teachers get up to?’ said a friend to me yesterday. It seems his son’s English teacher is the latest to be snared by the ghost of follies past because of the Internet. I must say that his cheerful reaction seemed rather unwarranted in the circumstances. Not that the comments in the paper read much better. ‘It is absolutely awful, morally,’ the Mail quoted one parent as saying, ‘especially given the type of school she teaches in.’ (Had this been a bog-standard comprehensive, it was implied, such conduct would have been acceptable.) ‘Headteacher Andrew Chicken said the school was looking into the case,’ the paper reports. Mr Chicken was pictured in his academic robes and grinning far too broadly in view of the gravity of the situation (nay, he almost seems to be smirking). Headmaster, please don’t look any more closely – avert your eyes! The students also appear to be treating this with unseemly levity; one is quoted as leaving a message for the unfortunate teacher on YouTube: ‘Perhaps you could sign autographs at the bag racks.’

Still, let’s look at the advantages. As the Mail’s report says in its opening sentence, ‘When pupils at a private school found their English teacher starring in a raunchy video on the Internet, they paid attention like never before.’ Reading the Daily Mail site is never good for those of a liberal disposition, however; the right hand side of the web page carrying this article is headed Femail; on the day I visited the page, the first article said: ‘Is it breasts, height, amount of body hair? A new book reveals the secrets of attraction …’ (Clearly the answer is no – it’s being an English teacher that counts for most.)

I shall refrain from linking to the news article: find the Daily Mail for 16 January 2008 for yourselves if you must.

Latest news: ‘Mum defends teacher’, the Manchester Evening News reports on 19 January – and quite right too, especially when it seems the film may have been edited after shooting to change the emphasis. After all, this could happen to anyone, couldn’t it, your Majesty?

Unfortunately, the Sun, that defender of freedom, has also reported the case (it’s now a ‘sex film’ – note the inverted commas, boys and girls). The comments posted by readers appear to support the teacher and at least show some erudition: ‘I suppose if she had played the lead in Romeo an Juliet (with the nude scene as written in by W Shakespeare) she would have been OK,’ says ‘jimboman’. Funny, I don’t remember that in the Folio, Jim: have you been watching too many videos yourself? With friends from the Sun….