In brief

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
100 ESSENTIAL LISTS FOR TEACHERS. By Duncan Grey. Continuum pound;5.99.

Most teachers' lives are dominated by lists. From names in registers, to exam entries, to the arbitrary advice we give students ("So, there are three main points to remember"), we constantly sort and sift information.

So Duncan Grey's 100 Essential Lists for Teachers ought to feel indispensable. This pocket-sized paperback offers precisely what the title implies - lists that range from hints on making a worksheet to pointers on coping with epilepsy.

There are personal lists (stressbusters, hints on health), lists to help you in the classroom (top teaching tips, routines, supply teacher's emergency kit), and lists on everything from getting the most out of ICT to dealing with medical emergencies to getting another job.

It's this arbitrariness that is both the attraction and irritant of the book. Some of the lists are genuinely thought-provoking and useful, such as the "alternatives to copying out" and ideas for emergency lessons with no equipment.

But there's also a haphazardness that occasionally intrudes. In the well-intentioned list of "Books you'll both approve of: popular fiction for young people", Jostein Gaarder's name is misspelled, an apostrophe is wrongly placed in Louis Sachar's There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom, and the Harry Potter titles are in the wrong order. Also, the teacher quotations at the foot of each page ("What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to the soul," Joseph Addison) are a distraction.

None the less, it's quirky, distinctive and, dare I say it, fun. So I'll add it to my list of useful books for teachers.

TEACHER-LED DEVELOPMENT Work: guidance and support. By David Frost and Judy Durrant. David Fulton pound;25.

Books that aim to help teachers with research and development work in their schools are a growth area. It's one of life's ironies that these guides are never written by teachers themselves, but usually by researchers based in universities. The "teacher-led" in the title of this book has an aspirational ring to it.

The book is heavy on advice on critical reflection and establishing learning networks. No doubt the content is all valuable stuff - it covers developing "key strategies" (ever noticed how everything is "key" these days?), partnerships, mentoring and coaching - but it's written in a language to which I'm becoming immune: "Real improvement stems from participation in a discourse that is both critical and authentic", and so on.

Most useful are the sample documents aimed at helping teachers to develop their own approach to research: meeting schedules, guides to research ethics, checklists for clarifying values and concerns, and various helpful pro forma documents.

We've always said we want a reflective profession, and research is one way that we as teachers can show a self-critical desire to improve our work.

The pity is that books like this make it all seem quite so joyless.

Geoff Barton is headteacher at King Edward VI school, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

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