Books which all should read

This is not a VIth form reading list, nor is it the outcome of a recent lower VIth activity to design and justify the texts to form the basis of a new A level course (interesting though that was – The Old Testament through to Trainspotting and beyond…). It is a quick review of two of the most interesting and potentially influnetial education books to have appeared in recent times. Many “names” of the paedagogical world and Twittersphere have already writtne at length and i leav eyou to browse them after my ha’penn’orth.
David Didau and John Tomsett should be required reading for all teachers at all levels and also for anyone with an interest in teaching and learning – including students. If you are an aspiring University Graduand, get hold of a copy of either book and reflect on your education – -see what you come up with and use it to inform discussion and debate.

Didau: What if everything you knew about education was wrong? This is a big book. Over 400 pages have been given over to one of the most interesting reads to arrive for a while. David does not present material based on personal dogma and does not present in a didactic tone which ends up making the reader feel woefully inadequate. Instead his discussion of many of the current issues in teaching is lucid, witty and wonderfully objective. David is open and honest about the fact that, for many, there is a level of engagement with many ideas which “works” even if it shouldn’t. This book is not a sledgehammer, it is a gadfly to make all readers pause and examine their practice before moving on. David manages that tricky skill, to make us empathise with his experience in the profession whilst seeing ourselves in a clearer light. I love his treatment of recent panaceas such as SOLO taxonomy. The alacrity with which many of us seized on what seemed to be a grail like phenomenon has been replaced in many by a slightly shamed retreat. I can relate to this, but it does work in some ways. My blog has many SOLO activities in its pages, and I still believe that the uni-, multi-, relational path is an excellent way to engage students in understanding the current state of their knowledge and understanding. As a result of a youtube video I still relate individual pieces of knowledge to lego bricks and students seem to understand the metaphor as part of the development of writing skills. What has gone are the reliance on the terminology and the wall charts. At last I am reading a book in which my journey through the minefield of paedagogy is validated by an expert who seems to suggest that our journey to excellence should be littered with ideas and experimentation as we strive to improve, before shedding the unnecessary and developing the useful. He is clear and staggeringly well researched and possibly is at his most useful for providing a critique of many strands of practice in one convenient place. Now I can shoot down VAK and Brain Gym, to name two of the most pernicious false dawns to have blighted our profession in recent times, from a single book. This book demands to be read by all who enter and share in a classroom. David blogs at – go and browse the vast range of his posts. You will not regret it.

Tomsett: Followers of John Tomsett’s blog will know already that there are few more honest and humane writers on education. The overwhelming honesty of JOhn’s blog and his willingness to expose his private life as part of the explanation process is something I find extraordinary and humbling. He should also be read by all. His new book:This Much I Know About Love Over Fear … Creating A Culture For Truly Great Teaching is a little masterpiece. It is a guide to running a school, written by someone who does exactly that and it is a book which demands to be read. that said, I think it will be a brave staff member who slips this onto their Head Teacher’s desk simply because it is so demanding of those who hold that role. John is not only adamant that Leaders should be active in the classroom, but this English teacher has also taught Economics and Maths – no hiding there! He is thoughtful and caring of staff and pupils and has brought me up short, once again, with his description of the revelatory moment while teaching Arthur Miller when he had to reassess his entire relationship with his son. Such honesty is rare to read, and yet for most of us in this profession it rings such truth. How many of us are putting job first again and again to the detriment of our private lives? Far, far too many. If you are reading this and have never read John’s blog, dig it out: and change your outlook on education. Then, go and buy this book.