Friday, February 28, 2014

Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. (Henry David Thoreau)

Among other things the last two weeks have been consumed by a subject report on last year's results and plans for 2014.

So far it's weighing in at 28 pages. It seems extreme. On the extremo continuum I'd put this at one end. Our neighbouring girls' school apparently doesn't require Heads of Departments to write a report at all. Clearly this is at t'other end of the extremo continuum.

I try hard not to do the 'when I was a Principal' bit but I recall being asked about what I wanted my Heads of Departments to report on when I was a Principal at Stratford High School and my response was basically twofold - ONE = where are the gaps in performance and whatcha gunna do bout it? and TWO = where are the strengths in performance and how yer gunna build on it?

So strengths and weaknesses basically.

Less is more!

I'm a big believer in occam's razor - the principle that you should go straight to simpler theories so that simplicity gives you a deeper understanding. 

Twenty eight pages and counting is not simplicity.

[Side bar - couldn't a done my 28 pages without the stellar support of my English Department colleagues and fellow HODder and regular reader - Toni Dunstan - you rock Toni!!]

Friday, February 14, 2014

Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot (Groucho Marx)

I had an interesting conversation with one of my former students (she's now in Year 11 at school) about the merits of male teachers and female teachers.

Actually it wasn't much of a conversation. But it was interesting.

I had asked her how she was doing and she had said, "Good' and then listed her teachers for this new academic year. Three were male which she noticed as she told them to me. Her next statement was, "I love having male teachers - they don't have different moods and I get on with them better than female teachers".

"Oh", I said and wished her a groovy day!

I've written before about the feminising of the teaching profession but I haven't considered the different styles between the sexes much. 

I think it's probably a given that men and women teach differently but I don't buy the student's idea that females are more moody compared to men. I think it's more that the age of the men she currently has as teachers are on the mature side (yep - they're old dudes) whereas the female staff are generally much younger. Hormonally speaking, men have testosterone 'surges' just as women have estrogen and progesterone rises and falls.  

A research study I read recently had this to say:
Student evaluations are a common, if flawed, method for faculty to receive feedback about their teaching. Research has shown that students’ evaluations can be significantly influenced by the gender of their instructors. Many studies reveal that students tend to rate female faculty members’ differently than male faculty members Reasons for these findings are multifaceted. For example, students may hold biased perceptions of the differences between men and women faculty.   
The student I talked with may be seen as echoing a belief that female and male teachers are a certain way because of some shallow perceptions. She rates me higher as a teacher because she got on better with me than she did the female teacher I replaced - even though she was an excellent teacher.

I think I've just discovered another reason why I'm suspicious of student evaluations!