Off The Shelf

28th October 1994 at 00:00
As you look at your angelic ten-year-old daughter, skipping off to school in her uniform, you are quite confident, are you not, that you want her to make her own choices as she grows. Let me suggest to you, though, with the voice of experience, that whereas you are assuming that in five years she will be choosing between the clarinet and the violin, the reality is that she will be frightening the dog with her hairstyle and trying to decide whether to wear two nose-rings or three.

As consultant child psychiatrist Dr Fiona Subotsky writes in Are You Expecting too Much from Your Child, (Piccadilly Press #163;6.99) "Middle class parents do often give out double messages. They tell their children that they 'just want them to be happy' but countermand this by being confused and upset if the children do not 'spontaneously' choose an approved, achieving path."

What is refreshing about Dr Subotsky's book (which is as useful for teachers as it is for parents) is that rather than just dwelling on the behaviour of children, it invites them, with the aid of short case studies,to reflect on their own attitudes and expectations. Not that parents are always fuddy duddy and wrong. Bill Cosby, speaking to a high school audience once said, "The world is not going any place whether you pass or fail. It sits where it sits. You fall off."

Cosby is an example of "mentoring" which, in this context, means putting successful role models before high school students. In the States, this is a trend which has become a movement, described in Mentors by Thomas W Evans (Peterson's, distributed here by John Catt Educational Pounds 14.95) In the best cases these mentors - Betty Flood, Bill Kellogg, Hillary Clinton - go beyond fleeting visits, and commit themselves to long-term programmes of support. We could do with more of that over here, especially from some of the vocal critics of education.

In February 1963 I was being interviewed for a job in a Coventry secondary modern. At the close of the interview, which was in the head's room, I stood up, strode to the door, confidently opened it and walked straight into a dark cupboard full of buckets and mops. This ploy (risky for all sorts of reasons) certainly got me noticed, because the head mentioned it at my leaving do - which, admittedly, followed shortly afterwards.

Crashing into the cleaners' cupboard is a tactic not mentioned in Interviews Made Easy by Mark Parkinson (Kogan Page Pounds 6.99). Just about everything else is there, though, including "Don't make sudden movements" and "Make sure you have some clean, smart and appropriate interview clothes." Dr Parkinson's book, which is aimed at a general audience, is misleadingly titled, because it covers not only the interview but the whole selection process from job search, through application forms,to a discussion of various assessment techniques. It is readable, helpful and written with the authority of someone who knows. Did you realise, incidentally, that some employers use astrology in selecting staff? Dr Parkinson poins out that "This is a technique which does not require the candidate to be physically present" (saves on travelling expenses I should imagine). Nevertheless, you should, "research your zodiac sign. You can then counter any interview discussion from a position of strength."

Also written with inside know-edge is Get Mediawise (Don Philpott and others. Pounds 6.95 Mediawise Communications, Selway House, Rochester Road,Aylesford, Kent ME20 7BL). Written by a team of journalists and broadcasters, it is aimed at anyone whose task is to cultivate relations with the media. Thus, although not specially for them, schools will find it very useful. There are sections on press releases, press conferences, photographs, dealing with radio and television. There is lots of good advice which would be helpful to a school under pressure after a controversial or tragic event - "It is not unknown for a newspaper to have several reporters working on the same story. Two, or even three, might deliberately phone you putting the same points, to see if you can be persuaded to change your story".

Long ago, when I taught O level history at evening classes, there were always among my students a few people (usually women) who were starting out, full of hope, on the long road to a teaching qualification - first O Levels, then A levels, then training college. In later years, whenever I met as a colleague one who had stayed the course, I was always filled with admiration. Much of the same feeling permeates OU Women by c. This tells the stories of 14 women of various ages and backgrounds who turned their lives round with the aid of a hard-won Open University degree. This is the Christmas present for a partner or colleague who is thinking of breaking out but needs that last little inspirational push (Cassell Pounds 35 hardback Pounds 10.99 paperback).

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