Religion in the media: the apologists

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I often see posts in social media that involve a person of faith doing something ‘good’. It’s lovely to see that humanity still exists amongst us despite the troubles we are facing as a planet.

However I can’t help noticing that these often have an ‘apologist’ stance. They’re almost posted to try and say ‘see, not all  religious people (often Muslims) are bad’. This concerns me.

Why do we feel that we have to identify someone’s religion when they do something, instead of looking at the act itself?

Of course, I’m not naive enough not to appreciate that sweeping news headlines sell. But I’m seeing more and more on social media, created by the public. It’s almost a new sensationalist way of telling a story; mention what religion they are and it becomes more interesting.

Consider this example…

Sikh man removes turban to rescue boy hit by car in New Zealand http://www.telegraph.co.uk

If we consider the view that the person may be doing that act because of their faith or that for some reason this act is exceptional because of their religion then I think we can get into problems.

In this case, wouldn’t anyone use anything they have to hand that may help the injured? Why is the Sikh man singled out for helping? For all we know, the other people that helped may be doing something that tests their own faith principles.

It almost implies in this kind of reporting that people without a religion wouldn’t have done this or the perception of this religion is the majority of its followers wouldn’t have done this.

In the current climate Muslims are particularly used for apologist headlines. Seemingly, people are proud to post that a Muslim is doing something nice! What does this tell us about our perceptions?

It shows how the media has manipulated us enough to think that this behaviour is the exception. But it’s not.

Every day, people do good and bad things. Some of them have a religion, some don’t. But of course, a headline such as ‘Human helps another human’ doesn’t sell.

So next time you see a story that specially mentions the religion of a participant, think carefully. By sharing or retweeting are you contributing to the current religious apologist culture?

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Teaching & testing but not teaching to the test

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This year I am trialling using multiple choice quizzes with the students as part of our assessment model. I’ve blogged on the process here and on ‘no stakes testing’ here.

Before, I made the MC questions, we sat as a department and decided what we would teach; the core content we wanted students to know and understand. This is highlighted at the top of our schemes of learning and each lesson references at least one of these bullet points.

This week our students have been doing the 3rd test. It’s been the same questions every test. And all I can say is that the results are fascinating.  I will blog separately about them and the implications they may have for the tweaking the model, but at the moment it has me thinking:

If we know what is going to be on a test, do we instinctively teach to the test? Is that a bad thing if it is based on the core knowledge we want our students to gain?

Due to our system, students don’t get their results, see the questions unless being quizzed or know comparatively how they’ve done from one test to another.

So have I been teaching to the test or just testing them on the things I’ve taught them?

Our school coaching model

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My school is great. We’ve ditched lesson observations and have introduced a new system of progress reviews.

This is all due to our SLT who do things because they really believe in them and the difference they can make to teachers and in turn, students.

To compliment the review system but as a completely separate system we are developing a teacher coaching model. We trialled this at the end of last academic year and it has now been rolled out across the staff.

A group of teachers have been trained as coaches.  We used the STRIDE model in the training but this has been flexible.

All teachers have identified an area in their teaching that they would like to work on, investigate, improve, resolve etc It is 100% their decision what to focus on. It isn’t set in stone and it can change as many times as they feel appropriate.

Each coach has been allocated with some coachees including all the coaches themselves and all SLT. These are across subject.

Coaching time has been embedded into our CPD time however how and when that time is used is up to the coaching pair.

The coach and coachee meet for the first time to discuss the focus. It is up to the coach to ask and probe rather than comment or offer suggestions. The plan of what will happen is mainly down to the coachee. They need to ask for what they want from the process rather than being told by the coach.

Once decided what the focus is the first ‘action’ point can be carried out. It may be a visit to a specific class, a chat with certain children or a look through books. It isn’t specified. It is up to the pair to decide and arrange.

For example, my focus is on high achieving students and challenge. I asked my coach to interview students to ask them their views and thoughts on this issue. I gave him the names and an idea of the questions I’d like the answers to. The great thing about this is that we have no ‘connection’ within the school so students  would hopefully be open and honest in their responses.

If a classroom visit is organised it will be on such a specific aspect of the learning that they are not lesson observations and anything else that is happening in the lesson is irrelevant unless the coachee asks for any further info.

Once this first action has taken place the pair need to meet as soon as possible to discuss the outcomes. The coach has to stick to ‘facts’; specific things that were seen and heard, no judgements.

Instead of ‘The lesson was great because the students were enthusiastic in answering questions’, a comment might be ‘I noticed that the majority of the class had their hands up to answer the questions. Why do you think that was? Do they usually do this? Why?’.  I try to make it ‘here’s something I saw/heard’ and ‘here’s a question about that’.

Any language of judgement shouldn’t be included so no ‘good’, ‘great’ or ‘concerning’. The coach should be posing questions. Lots of them, to get the teacher thinking. One of the best questions is ‘why?’. This allows the teacher to think through the process. It’s this thinking that should help them to reflect.

The coach shares any notes, nothing is secret and any key issues discussed afterwards are recorded. In this session the questioning should lead to the next steps. These should be decided by the coachee and not the coach.  The process then continues.

All paperwork is kept between the coach and coachee. Nothing is used for PM unless the coachee decides to link the coaching with their own PM targets. It is a CPD model not a monitoring or judgement model.

We’re early days into the model but in my personal experience it has enabled me to find things out and move things forward in my teaching without any judgement. It’s an extra pair of ‘neutral’ eyes. I was more interested to know what the students had said rather than a number that would put me into an arbitrary category.

Please feel free to ask any questions about the model.