My round-up and 10 most popular blogs of 2013
I've been blogging for a few years now, from the first itch of "what do I write about?" to "there will never be enough time to write about everything interesting in education". At the time, it seemed more of a niche field, but now I'm glad to say that the blogosphere has blossomed until it seems that every second teacher has an online presence. I say seems, the reality is that the percentage of teachers who are regularly active online is relatively small compared to the entire community – I've even heard figures as low as 5 per cent – so perhaps before any of us congratulate ourselves and get "digital-native legend" T-shirts printed, we should remember that we are a salon rather than a playground.
Still, this expansion is significant: it means that teachers are finding their voices, at last, to speak – unmediated – unto other teachers. That's novel and important in a profession where we have student voice and parent power and stakeholders and armchair generals, but rarely a place for teachers to speak their truths. So we now have a smorgasbord of professional wisdom, cant and expertise, from curricular tub-thumpers to careful policy vivisectors; old lags, long-timers and lifers alongside keen beans, greenhorns and first-timers. Some are Solomonic, some are practically cries for help, some are messianic and flatulent, some are modest and edifying. But they are all part of a great chorus of voices that do not often speak with one voice. They are legion, for they are many.
2013 was the year that at least one of my magic lamp wishes came true, when the TES asked me to emigrate my blog from my bedroom to their boardroom, which I guess is the kind of thing you fantasise about when you start such a thing. It's been a fantastic platform.
It was also a year that saw the inception and launch of #researchED2013, a grassroots, teacher-led vehicle for classroom practitioners and education research communities to collaborate and communicate with each other. It was an astonishing success, and I've already started putting together #researchED2014, with new speakers, sponsors, venues and projects all in the pipeline, including regional events, magazines, teacher training and a book...all it needs is a album, and no doubt I'll get around to that too. One of the best things about the whole project was meeting and working with a range of fantastic people across the teaching and research communities; it was a privilege to do so – CPD from heaven. People like Ben Goldacre, Robert Coe, Daniel Willingham, Sam Freedman, Laura McInerney, Frank Furedi, Daisy Christodoulou, Joe Kirby, David Weston and on and on and on. We were praised by the secretary of state for our efforts, and the DfE even kindly filmed our speakers. Apart from teaching, it's the most satisfying thing I've ever done professionally and I cannot wait for #researchED2014 in September.
I also published my fourth book, Teacher Proof, to both kind and caustic reviews. I don't know if I don't prefer the latter sometimes on the grounds that if it upsets some people, then I'm doing it at least partially right, given how I feel about the current relationship between mainstream teachers and research. Teacher Proof peaked at #1 on the Amazon education book chart, which was a childhood dream, and I don't give a damn if it was a nested niche of a chart, I'll take my jollies where I can.
I spoke at dozens of schools and conferences. It's enormously edifying for me to come into schools and meet other teachers around the UK, usually learning as much from them as I hope they do from me. The beauty of these gigs is that you can be working in a group of three people on a behaviour task force, helping to design a new policy or getting your Wembley on to 700 people at the Ark conference or the Institute of Education PGCE behaviour keynote, where you have 600 anxious young guns ready to launch. One of the most satisfying gigs was The Cambridge Festival of Ideas, which saw me beatboxing my greatest hits, such as: "Teachers don't read research very much" and "Learning Styles are rubbish"; given the venue, it was like playing rap at a hillbilly funeral. Pleasing, as was appearing on BBC Breakfast a few times, guesting on Rory Bremner's Radio 4 show, before ending up with the Big Kahuna Paxman on Newsnight just a few weeks ago, something even my Gran saw.
Here, pop pickers, are my most popular blogs from 2013 on the TES Connect website, in ascending order of hits. Reviews of Educating Yorkshire and old-fashioned raging against the education machine dominate.
10. Educating Yorkshire 8: The moment
This series gave me huge, galloping quantities of material. Roll on Educating "Next Place".
9. The two biggest problems in education that no one takes seriously #1: Behaviour
An incredibly satisfying piece to write, but I was sad that, after 7 years of writing obsessively about behaviour, it still needed to be written.
8. Educating Yorkshire 3: Bad boys, bad boys, what ya gonna do?
More Thornhill hi-jinks, focusing on the naughty lads.
7. Educating Yorkshire 2: CSI Thornhill
The thing I loved about Educating Yorkshire/Essex was that they gave rise to a new genre of television: the school-procedural. It's a bit boring in real life, but the documentary made the mundane seem almost exciting.
6. Educating Yorkshire 4: Faithful are the wounds of a friend
Girls, and the endless permutations of their falling in-and-out with each other. I watch, a man mystified.
5. Educating Yorkshire 6: The big C
The EY juggernaut gathers pace
4. When did we forget how to deal with bad behaviour?
Another piece on the apparent inability of some schools to take behaviour seriously. Which means I don't take them seriously as schools.
3. The Beaufort Wind Scale: Why we need an observation revolution
A piece dealing with the absurdity and intrinsically damaging nature of the graded observation for a profession where all that can be measured is all that is valued.
2. The death of levels
Me, dancing on the grave of levels, the greatest con trick pulled off in education in recent decades. I'm still dancing.
1. Educating Yorkshire 1: Return of the king, and ting
And straight in at number one: the start of the series that ate educational television, that saw me watching every Thursday with a pause button, a notepad and a pot of coffee to keep me up as I reviewed it afterwards on a school night.
Here's to 2014.