Little_Mavis' rants and musings

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Valentine’s day lesson

I used to teach IT post-16 Level 1. If you don’t understand the jargon, level 1 is where kids come to college having managed to achieve hardly anything at High School. They acquire a qualification which is (or at least was – thank you Mr Gove) equivalent to 4 GCSEs grades D – F. Oh they did also do English & Maths courses/qualifications in case you were worried.

The reasons they hadn’t done this at school were varied. Some had severe dyslexia or other learning difficulties. Many had behavioural issues. Some had physical illnesses. Also family problems, exclusion….you can imagine. So, not A level kids.

A couple of years ago one unit covered Internet & Email. Yes, I know you all use the Internet & email (obvious really) but how many of even intelligent & educated people like you use it properly.

The lesson involved comparing different forms of communication today. Mobile phones, land lines, email, skype, even actual letter writing. They worked in groups looking at advantages & disadvantages of each. I got some wonderful suggestions

Email would be good for Valentine cards because

  • You can send the same card to many people easily
  • You can include a photo

Landlines would be good because

  • You can hide your number
  • They can hear what you sound like

Cards are good because

  • You don’t have to sign them
  • You can tie a ribbon round them to keep them

Who says romance is dead?


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Death & Celebrity – An apology (sort of)

First, please do not be offended by this. I am attempting to explain my point of view. Now we are in the cold light of day I am not trying to tell you that yours is wrong. (I may have done just that in the heat of the moment. sorry) I’m working at understanding it.

I was awake late the other night. I had just read a tweet about this article about NHS health reforms showing how much influence McKinsey & Company’s had on the bill. I thought this was important so I tweeted the link. I planned on tweeting again in the morning. Just as I was switching off for the night, Twitter exploded (metaphorically of course) with news that Whitney Houston had died. I saw the chances of the NHS story being noticed as news receding quickly. Remember the whole “good day to bury bad news” furore a few years ago?

Full disclosure. I actively dislike her type of music and I do not like her renditions (see I’m trying to step carefully here by saying I don’t like it rather than making absolute statements as to its intrinsic quality)

I got a bit cross. I find the whole business of getting upset when a celebrity dies quite distasteful. I don’t understand it at all. You don’t know them, will not meet them, in the case of musical artists you can still buy the records. Also 48 is not especially young after alcohol and drug abuse, many died at a much earlier age. (OK this may sound callous but I’m trying to be honest here)

In the normal course of things, I don’t actually think I would have said anything. I did this time because I felt it was overshadowing something I felt to be more important. I’ll try to exercise more restraint next time. (By the way, I wouldn’t joke, even I’m not so unfeeling)

A few people responded to be about this so (in my usual fashion) went off to look at research. Views on why this happens include people feeling closer to the celebrity than friends & family because they see more of them and identifying with the celebrity though age and other perceived similarities. Someone told me they felt it keenly because her music had been around through their formative years, it certainly wasn’t through mine. The great icons of my youth who have died did so at a much younger age, and just as pointlessly. It was probably as well there was no Twitter when John Lennon was killed. I get it more now than I did before, though not totally. I’m still happy with my view. I still believe people over-react to celebrity deaths, but I accept that it is a facet of the world we live in now.

For a measured response, and good advice, go and read Peter’s (@PME200) blog

It did lead me on to think about the way we react to death. I asked a question on Twitter and got quite a lot of interesting and enlightening responses. I’ll cover that another day

Oh and please, continue to fight for the NHS. It really is worth saving. Sign here if you haven’t already

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Feral Youth – To Know them is actually to quite like them

I was chatting to a friend on Twitter this morning. She tweeted that

I used to be more right wing until I went 2 work in an area with high unemployment in Cornwall as a Careers Adviser. Totally changed my view

I realised then that I had changed my views over the last 10 years too. One student will illustrate why

I was teaching IT Key Skills in an Inner City College. I mostly taught A level student & some vocational level 3. Many of my lessons were in part of the drop in centre. This was far from ideal as I had to clear students out before the start of the lesson. Some weren’t keen on going. It was warm in there. They could chat & surf the Internet.

One boy had to be thrown out regularly “John” was an unprepossessing kid, skinny, spotty and always argumentative when I asked him to move. He was an Intermediate Sports Studies student who had come up from the foundation course.

The next year, I found him in a class I was teaching. I didn’t look forward to this. I knew he had a track record of arguments & even fights. I soon found out I was wrong. Yes, he could be aggressive and difficult, but this was his reaction to being asked to do things he didn’t understand.  If you gave him time, quiet attention and the help he couldn’t bring himself to ask for out loud, he was responsive and tried hard. His biggest problem was a raging insecurity.

To pass the course the students needed to produce a portfolio of work and pass an on-line multiple choice test.  His class took the test, most passed, he failed. The way the questions were written generally caused more problems than the content.

We worked together, he completed his portfolio. I told him I wanted him to resit the test. He didn’t want to, he didn’t like that he had failed and thought he would fail again. I spent a long time persuading him that he should, that all his work on the portfolio would be wasted if he didn’t. He finally relented and re-sat……and failed again.  What was great was his response. He thanked me for making him resit, he said he was pleased he had and had improved his mark. He would have another go if there was time. If you want to see what the tests were like there is one here as a PDF

He completed that year, moved on to the second year of his course and vanished after a couple of weeks. The department made efforts to get him back into college but calls and letters went unanswered and visits home found no-one there. It looked as if he had become a statistic.

At the start of the following year I met him in college. I was genuinely pleased to see him and asked what had happened. He told me that he’d had to stay home to look after his dad who had “put himself in hospital with his drinking” he was back now because his “brother was back home and could help“. I didn’t like to ask where his brother had been.

So this was a young man who had left school with very few qualifications. He had worked through four years of college, learning new forms of behavious, developing his social skills and self-confidence as well as getting a formal qualification. He  had come back to college after a year out to complete his course. The last I heard he was working at a Sports Centre.

I’m not sure I would have done so well if I’d had his background. I look at “difficult” teenagers differently now I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of knowing so  many of them. After ten years in FE I can think of only a handful of students that I have actually disliked, which in all honesty is a much lover proportion than the adults I have met in the same time period.

Oh, almost forgot the point of this. Would politicians understand the “feral, scrounging scum” if they really knew people who weren’t actually educated at Eton? Or are they really a lost cause?

Disclaimer If I make any mistakes in these blog posts. Don’t worry. I’m deliberately rattling them off quickly with no rewrites in order to overcome the issues described in my first post