‘It’s a hideous old hag!’
‘It’s a striking youngster!’
‘How can you not *see* what I mean?’
‘How can you not see what *I* mean?’
I take responsibility for the storm that erupted on the twitter edusphere this weekend. I failed to foresee quite how differently some would see my blogpost from how I – and others – saw it. I should perhaps have re-read this: ‘we react much, much more intuitively than we’d like to admit. That is, our emotional, moral reaction kicks in first’.
So I wrote to Mr Beadle on Monday, and here’s what I said:
I’m writing to apologise to you for the offence my blogpost has caused. Here’s what was said about it online on the weekend:
“criticises something written as a generic little helper for being generic, designed to be incendiary, the impetuosity of exuberant youth, poor, unprofessional, wilfully under-nuanced misreading, ideological drives construed as pragmatism, obnoxious, risible, arrogance, dismissiveness and condescension, an emotive lashing-out, misjudged, bitter and hostile, emotive and dismissive, condescending, arrogant, absurd, big-mouthed lightweight, self-imploding, jarring, academically lazy and weak, bigoted, passive-aggressive, a politicised arm, sneering caricature, misrepresentation, smug derision, incredibly dull, lazy, a lazy stereotype, bigotry, jarringly unacademic, no substance, a mosh-pit of obnoxious Oxbridge posh kids, divisiveness and confrontation. Worse than anything seen in my many long years.”
If I understand your viewpoint correctly, it’s that that I criticise your book for being generic when that is precisely its purpose! You see it as a deliberately blunt misrepresentation of your large volume of work – 7 books, hundreds of thousands of words, and loads of TV and CPD sessions. It seems you were the first teacher to take a public stand against learning styles, which I didn’t know. I think I see what you mean – but tell me if I’ve misunderstood.
With that in mind, I’d like to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I misrepresented your work in public. And I’m sorry for the hassle and annoyance my post caused.
I have read three of your seven books, and I plan to read the others. When I read them as a new teacher, I found them iconoclastic. They got me challenging the accepted orthodoxy around starters and the three-part lesson, for instance.
These are the messages and practical ideas I most like from How To Teach:
“Control your classroom; sort your seating; zero tolerance; appear endlessly enthusiastic; use praise envy; all pens down; ringing parents is the ultimate sanction; emotion is viral; enthuse them to love your subject; experiment; set homework at the beginning; equip them with complex, technical sub-specific key words; set only minimally-labour-intensive homework; the key to setting objectives is the verb you choose to use; marking is the most important thing you do as a teacher: mark their books with dedication and rigour and your class will fly; teaching is a lifetime vocation.”
On all this I agree. I have already said what I disagree with; perhaps on that we should agree to disagree.
Someone once said that wisdom is balancing courage and consideration. I clearly overcooked it on the ‘courage’, and undercooked it on the consideration. So I have removed your name from the title, and I would like to make this apology public online on Wednesday.
Apologising is one thing; learning the lesson and acting on the mistake is another. I’ll do my best to strike a better balance between challenge and consideration in the future.
I look forward to taking up your teach-off challenge one day – though perhaps not until the dust has settled!
Phil replied generously that he’d buy me a pint at the next education event. The round after is on me.
And the moral of the story? That, dear reader, I leave to you to decide.
For my part, I know I still have a hell of a lot to learn!