Corvid, my Corvid

So I was standing in a large auditorium reading the names of people who were being awarded doctorates. There were more than I expected – in fact more and more seem to appear on the sheaf of papers I was reading from. I dropped the papers, and picked them up in any order. The hall kept getting bigger, I kept seeing more people, and the titles of their theses were, over and over, relevant or interesting to me. I mugged my way through the ceremony, trying to make some sense of the papers in front of me. All those people with doctorates and I couldn’t manage to read their names clearly enough.

And then I woke up, woke up with a sense of failure – and remembered that last night I had agreed to sign my withdrawal form from my own doctoral/MPhil experience. I signed it this morning, and the should’ve, could’ve, might’ve shadows make my tasks today – reading more of Hawkes’ A Land in the Bodleian and setting up teaching for the next semester – seem at first glance empty of significance.

But – like all but one of the psalms – I cannot leave it there. The title of my research still holds good: A critical investigation of themes in the depiction of the outdoors environment in young children’s picture books and one of the things reading and reading and thinking Ludchurch duskand talking about this have brought me is a closer look at landscape and the ways people interact with it. It has brought me all sorts of authors and ideas: Macfarlane, Garner, Gawain, Ludchurch;  it continues to allow me to work with and learn from Mat and Roger, to read with joy and understanding, to think  about the pressing issues of our ecological failures, to take pleasure (as well as feel concern) as I look at the world I walk in.

So here is Mary Oliver (of course) in her poem

Landscape

Isn’t it plain the sheets of moss, except that
they have no tongues, could lecture
all day if they wanted about

spiritual patience? Isn’t it clear
the black oaks along the path are standing
as though they were the most fragile of flowers?

Every morning I walk like this around
the pond, thinking: if the doors of my heart
ever close, I am as good as dead.

Every morning, so far, I’m alive. And now
the crows break off from the rest of the darkness
and burst up into the sky – as though

all night they had thought of what they would like
their lives to be, and imagined
their strong, thick wings.

cropped-img_6934

Spiritual patience, and the ambition of crows.

 

And thank you, Annie, for the raven linocut I’m finishing with. I might want to fly with the wings of eagles, but a keen eyed scavenger with a rude clarion cronk (thanks, Chris!) will do me just fine –

– and is probably just right. 

Never Neat

I had a conversation the other day with one of the leaders, to my mind, of Early Years philosophy and practice, a man who describes himself as “Theorist by instinct, Pracademic by experience,” Jan Dubiel. We were thinking about how the transition into training, writing, Higher Education, &c., from Early Years is tricky because our first instinct is to think first of the wellbeing of the children in our care.  This isn’t really a high-minded and self-sacrifical statement, just that the practice of day-long working with young children is so all-engossing, it is hard to look up and see the other things looming.

I was talking to him while I was down at the allotment in the sunshine – that is, I was at my allotment in the sunshine; I don’t know where he was, but we were talking on the ‘phone, and when we had finished I watered, and netted, watered some more and picked courgettes, and I thought and thought about the lack of neatness of the professional world of what he calls the “pracademic.”   I think we crave neatness, sometimes, and whether we achieve it or not, it says something to many of us about how much we can control our thoughts, or professional lives. Maybe the single-minded, plan-ahead hunter caught the gazelle aeons ago and it stuck. I don’t know: if so, I expect my ancestors were scavengers…

But this neatness has down sides. It suggests, for example, that orthodoxy is linear, or internally consistent and somehow wins because of this. This in turn might suggest that the monolith of an educational theory or practice is valid because it is massy and impassive; those who oppose it are dashed against the rock of its certainty. I am very wary of it: life is too complicated, families are too messy; what general theory might suggest does not mean that it can be reduced to “all children must,” still less “unless you do this as a teacher, the children will fail.”

Life is not neat. If I were to extend the idea from this previous blog post I might suggest that the lived experience of the professional educator is a task not unlike the complex task of literary criticism: we might, as Margaret Meek says,

…take the simplicity of the words for granted…but each double-page spread with its three words of text is full of possibilities.

How Texts Teach what Readers Learn, p12

I worked this morning with marvellous people from Home Start, a charity working with “families who are having difficulties managing parenting for a variety of different reasons:” we read Anthony Browne’s Voices in the Park, and (thanks to the complexity of the book, I rather think) they got my point at once.  These are people – often volunteers – who understand that all children are not the same; all families are complex, full, like a picture book, of possibilities beyond the simple statement, half-quotes from past lives, chances missed or taken.  The task of working with children and families requires a skill beyond the monolith, or beyond the first glance. This allows practitioners and practice-focused academics and trainers an interesting leeway: we are not joining a church, but enhancing the lives of children and families. Disagreement in one thing (or even a raft of things) does not make heretics, but can make thoughtful practitioners.

I did say “can…”

 

 

What Happens When You Graduate?

I’ve written about this before, both passing on the wisdom of others talking to graduands/graduates (such as Bill Watterson, here) or briefly when five years ago I discussed what the ritual of graduation does.

I asked “What about the ritual? What is conferred, what is received? Is there a quasi-sacramental element here?” It is this that I want to return to, the grey Monday after the Brookes Graduation ceremonies.

Oxford Brookes (and other Universities) talk about graduands, people who will be given a new status. In the ancient University “down the hill” (I am writing in Brookes library), the ceremony has something of its ancient power and regulation,  with candidates arriving dressed for one status and leaving dressed for another: ego admitto te /vos: I admit you, says the VC, and for the MA at Oxford this is the authorisation to teach, to lecture and dispute:

do vobis licentiam incipiendi in Facultate Artium… legendi, disputandi, et caetera omnia faciendi, quae ad statum Magistri in eadem facultate pertinent…

I give you licence to incept [begin to teach] in the Faculty of Arts …to lecture,
to dispute and to do all the other things that pertain to the rank of Master…

In another, Cambridge, the visual emphasis is oath/belonging but again is about admission – admitto te; in the third I’ve seen, St Andrews,  the conferment of the hood is a key element – back to dress and status. The elements have their roots in the regulation of the Schools such as Paris and Oxford and in turn draw on clothing and ordination ceremonies in the Western Christian tradition.   These have all drawn criticism of the ceremonial as based in intrinsically masculine symbolism, and while University leaders are often men there is an element that cannot be overlooked here. It is really compounded by the idea that the ritual does something: you come in without a degree and you go out with one; you come in without a license to teach, and leave able to do so.

Able.

Yes, this is where the ceremony stumbles, even in its ancient forms. What can you do today you couldn’t do on Friday? We have largely gone away from the ceremony as imparting some character, a sort of sacrament, or even a license, although some qualifications still have those elements when linked, as here, to professional standards.

I wonder if it’s time to rethink what a graduation ceremony does? If we think honestly about it, it seems to me to be about

  • belonging
  • standing
  • celebration

If (and I have cited Brookes’ own vision before) this is about “academic, professional and social engagement to enhance our reputation as a university” how does the graduation fit in? It fits in because, although we are (sc. Brookes is) not a University that uses the ceremony as a rite of confirmation – in other words, if you don’t turn up, you still have your BA or whatever – what a graduation does is celebrate the belonging and the success-at-belonging in the University.  The organisation – represented hierarchically by serious grown-ups such as the Vice-Chancellor and by tutors and other staff – shows how even when a course has finished, you still belong.    That belonging means that our reputation is mutually enhanced: “we” are happy to call you a graduate member of the family, hoping that “you” are happy to be recognised as one. The day celebrates – in its oldest meaning the organisation gets its members to congregate for a ritual purpose, and in this case in a more modern meaning, to come together with joy – the successful conclusion of part of the relationship. Perhaps the studying and results are the most intense part of the relationship, but it is a relationship that continues

The work the student has done allows their standing to be recognised. The academic exercises, successfully completed, bring about a recognition that this person or that has done the job they set out to do. The professionals that helped them to do it recognise that publicly (and ceremonially?) in a way that a message over the internet or by post does not do. Whether this actually needs marking by dress and processional is an interesting point – but maybe that debate is a different one. What might a graduation look like that was overtly inclusive? Specifically not rooted in Christian ritual or at least ecclesiastical history? Smaller? Bigger? Gownless (I don’t mean naked)? Started from the student, not the institution? How much might be gained or lost in the sentiments of belonging and standing? What might be gained?

I think that we would have to recognise that in a society where dress codes are less and less important, they do still have significance; where hierarchy is more about management of power than the more instant getting up when someone comes into a room, physical aspects of respect still impact on our understanding. And where ceremony has its place in weddings, funerals, birthdays (yes they do have forms and formulae) and physicality continues to be part of what it means to be human, maybe the graduation day is not ready to be ignored.

I hope not: I had fun.

(Semi)retired

In 2018, on 11th June, after much humming and hawing (to the point where I must’ve bored Maggie and my work friends to pieces) and a memorable walk with Roger (my manager at the time) to talk it all through, I sent off the paperwork to apply for Voluntary Severance from my post as Programme Lead/Principal Lecturer in the School of Education at Oxford Brookes.

The back story is that I had been thinking about it for some time, pondering back in the January on this blog  “whether vocation and profession are coterminous.” Then it crashed in on me a year ago, at a time when (as the still rather raw-to-read blog posts such as this and this or the more comfortable this attest), I had had enough. Doctor; Occupational Health; Counselling: VS came at the point where I was (as those compassionate or foolish enough to get caught in the flood)  everything from tetchy to sleepless or weepy . I thought about it, thought about the other possibilities, and metaphorically signed the papers (e-documents). I am tempted to give an Oscar-like list of thanks to all those people who let or helped me let go of all those things I felt increasingly unable to do well, or who gave me sage advice. But I  won’t –  except that it’s now my turn. Here are some thoughts about the last year or so.  I won’t advise on how anyone not yet at pension stage should check their payments and lump sums &c regularly – although to have done so earlier would have saved me literally days on the ‘phone. This is a bit more personal. Well, a lot more personal really.

I wrote in January ‘18 that it came as “something of a surprise at this end of my working life to find I have friends deeply woven into my appreciation of a working day.” I was right when I said I enjoy people’s company.  It is still a good day that has coffee with Mat, or with Elise,  Chris or  Helena, or tea or something more refreshing with Jon. It is still a good day when coffee in the Weston means meeting Catharine, Carol, Georgina or Susannah. I still feel guilty about leaving when colleagues asked me not to.   It can be a bad day when I have to remind myself that not everyone is as flexible as I can be…  I wouldn’t describe this as loneliness, but as a realisation that I was right: life at Brookes can go on, does go on. Gloomily, I likened my going to a stone dropped into a pool: a splash, and then the calm waters close over. I had seen colleagues leave before and know that organisations and systems fill the voids very quickly.  That this is true is inexplicably sad. Nobody told me how big a part of this would be regret.

So the first message was that I wasn’t going to leave behind some of these gloomier things. I thought I might; I said to my counsellor I understood I wouldn’t; I really didn’t think it would be as big a deal as it is.  While Elise had advised it would take a year, I didn’t realise it would be a hard year. 

Other things have stayed, too. I feel like the reinvention of Nick has been like a second go on the adolescence rollercoaster, but with some knowledge of the track.  I sleep badly still – but then,  I always have. I spend too much time on social media and modern tech. Too much telly, too much iPad or ‘phone. A worry last week about a student’s programme meant I saw the dawn, heard the dawn chorus. Avoidance strategies to make things that are hurtful seem smaller. But with that has come running.

I am not a good runner. I am not like some of my extended family who moan about the Trench Foot or broken toes their umpteenth Marathon has brought them. BAA6F010-890B-422D-8483-6C7981D1D1EBI am a tubby jogger who is proud to be able to cover 6.5k without collapsing. Nevertheless, I look forward to it, enjoy it (mostly), really appreciate the contact with the natural environment of suburban Oxford, and of course boast of it when I can (like here).

Therefore the second message: new things may arise. I keep seeing jobs that I think “Ooh, I could apply,” only to realise that those opportunities are closed to me. But there are new chances, new possibilities, and I now know that vocation and profession is not the right dyad: it is much more like profession and full-time paid employment are not coterminous, and the new things arising can’t always be seen in terms of money.  Being not-entirley-retired has a lot of plus points: it allows me above all to ponder what I really want and need from my profession as an educator (yes, I know that’s ponderous and full of windbaggery).  

And as for the rest? Well, the new opportunties may not be what was expected, they are smaller, but they make the shape of a day feel different.  It’s such a joy to share stories and books with school children; a challenge to learn from pottery; a grace to go to Mass more often – and who is this person that writes household To Do lists? Tomorrow I will be reminded by various bits of music that it’s a day for running. This piece of Nina Simone from the music of Billy Taylor has been key, a life saver in the darkest times, and if it is an anthem for the liberation of oppressed minorities in the States, I don’t mean to equate my desires with the plight of African Americans in the 50s and 60s, but this came on as I went for my first run, and has stayed with me.

…I wish I could say
All the things that I should say
Say ’em loud say ’em clear
For the whole ’round world to hear.
 
I wish I could share
All the love that’s in my heart
Remove all the doubts
That keep us apart
I wish you could know
What it means to be me
Then you’d see and agree
That every man should be free…
 
It’s powerful stuff, all that wishing, all that desire for freedom.
 
And it’s reflecting on this that will bring this rambling to a close. I knew I would lose a lot when I left, some good, some bad – or maybe some immediately pleasant and some stressful: avoiding a judgment of good and evil – and I dimly realised there would be some things I would take or leave that would be in my power. I hadn’t expected that a lot would be outside my immediate control, and again some of that has made me really happy, and some has taken me to very miserable places.  I suppose one way of thinking about this is a Detox, but of course not everything was toxic in my job, not by a long chalk –  although I think one of things that I became addicted to was the stress…  and bang: work stress is gone.  
 
And that’s perversely one of the things that make leaving feel like a sentence that has been interrupted, a me that no  longer is me. The fish who escape the Aquarium at the end of Finding Nemo are free – but what do they do now? What will Caliban find when he has no more dams to make for fish? Another “language learnt but nothing understood,” perhaps? Freedom is also freedom to be caught by squalls of depression or aimlessness. Maybe these are the very spurs that send me out trotting round the meadow.  Like Caliban we all create who we are with what we have….
 
The poignant lyrics (and very James Taylor harmonies) of Before This World and The Jolly Spring Time have some useful thoughts:
 
Give up the love that takes and breaks your heart
Let go the weight of all that holds you here
 
and
 
Let the resin risin’ up in the tree
Make the green leaf bud…
 
Yes the winter was bitter and long
So the spring’ll be sweet
Come along with a rhythm and a song
Watch creation repeat.
 
Thin thin the moment is thin
Ever so narrow the now
Everybody say got to live in today
Don’t nobody know how
I know that the lyrics alone don’t cut it. For some people these are threadbare sentiments except, maybe, to a sixty-something who smiles when he’s running through the meadow and James Taylor’s singing comes on the lighten the last few minutes of a run. But they stop me running away from something: they make me think I’m running in something, which feels very different.  Running in the now. 
 
Maybe the third message is that I think this is my new job.    
 
 
 
 
 
 

Omens

It’s a spring day as March comes to its “out like a lamb” ending. The sun is shining and I’m out on Warneford Meadow, treading through tufty grass, and along paths worn by commuters. It is our local Green and a valuable space, with a rich and (I suspect) growing biodiversity.   I am one of a number of visitors, human and non-human – and as I trot down one of the paths I see a bunch of magpies. The Opies record the rhyme as:

One for sorrow
Two for mirth
Three for a wedding
Four for a death.

Lots of other versions are on record, testimony to the respect  people (maybe) had for these striking birds as messengers.  The Boke of Saint Albans has, in its lists of the Compaynys of beestys and fowlys has a tiding of [mag]pies (but beware: I’m not sure I trust a list with  Superfluyte of Nonnys or Noonpacience of Wyves)…

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told.
Eight for a wish
Nine for a kiss
Ten a surprise you must not to miss.

(It received a boost by being the theme tune for the Thames TV production of Magpie, ITV’s Blue Peter Rival, when perhaps other customs and rhymes have fallen by the wayside – but that began when  I was the key audience: a long time ago, now.)

Back to Warneford Meadow as I slog over a possible Roman settlement and try not to think about the Quis Est Iste Qui Venit of such a run.   Nine magpies, then as I approach it’s four then seven and then just one. What do we make of portents whose mobility makes the I Ching look solid?  Well, of course, we don’t, in general; it’s a bit of mind play while I run.

I remember that as I qualified as a teacher, the National Curriculum was just coming in, and the course leader was ending his goodbye speech to the PGCE with “May you live in interesting times.”  He did not foresee where we might be today: if we were only contending with conflicting views about curriculum that would be enough, but we have Schoolsweek announcing scandal upon scandal, Unionist bands and racists openly on the streets in London vying for publicity (and no, they don’t get links) with crowds and crowds of people with more politeness and less threatened violence, a Parliamentary struggle the likes of which I have never seen before… These are interesting times, but not in a good way. There are no signs or portents to match all of this rubbish.

And while I trundle my sixty-something way and wonder about what the list of magpie numbers might portend (I really did get the one above the other week), part of my mind is wondering: instead of nines and sevens am I just seeing magpie after magpie after magpie? Sorrow and sorrow and sorrow?  I don’t think I have ever felt gloomier about the state of my country and my profession.

So instead of corvid fortune telling, I will end with part of my play list for running:

Nina Simone whose version of Billy Taylor’s anthem to Freedom has been a lifesaver this winter.

And while we’re at it, her singing of Randy Newman’s great hymn to compassion.

Sod the magpies, stuff the omens: this is what we need.

Unwary Travelling – References

Or Unofficial (and Sweary) Views about Referencing

This is an odd piece to write because some of the students whose discussions prompt it graduate this summer. Too late, maybe, is the “well, I think” nature of this personal rant. Sorry.

I am also not able – or in fact willing even if it were in my power – to bring the whole edifice of referencing down, and I am not speaking for anyone but me – and probaby not me as a marker, when I am, apparently, harsh. I’m writing as an unwary fellow traveller myself, someone who continues to forget where a quotation comes from, and who, when I actually do publish something, dreads the Guides for Authors which tell me my own style won’t work for the Journal of Grindylow Studies when it was perfectly OK for Nelly Long-Arms Quarterly. So this is just my view, and you can’t hold me to it when I mark you down for something.

And with that disclaimer has to go the advert for the Brookes UpGrade (or Upgrade) service, who will help Brookes students get it right. The Upgrade web pages are a study handbook in themselves for referencing, note-taking, how to make a powerpoint… and include my favourite resource, Manchester University’s Academic Phrasebank. Yes, I use it when I get stuck, if you’re wondering.

Why Referencing?

The official view – and I wouldn’t depart from it – is that academic integrity demands it, and that anyone who writes should be able, as it were to show their workings. Nicely put here, it comes down to: No Fudging, No Half-quoting, and No Nicking ideas off other people. But with this there is another subscript, if you like: students reference because courses from Foundation Degrees and BAs on are in some bizarre way part of the apprenticeship for what every student really wants to be, and that’s an academic.  And academics’ jobs hang on the notion that their work is their own, their writing and teaching are trustworthy – so you, dear students, must buy into this most basic membership of the academic club.

Why Referencing like This?

or that? Why footnotes or endnotes or Harvard or whatever?

Really only because for the first bit to work, the reader/marker has to know what you’re trying to get at and where your ideas are coming from. Death by buzzword makes for an essay with little substance, and “everybody knows” is not a watertight argument.

Here we go with the kind of ranty thing I can’t really do much of in a class.

So I am bowling along in my writing and there’s this article, and I want to cite it. It’s Elizabeth Bucar’s The Ethics of Visual Culture, and it’s in the Journal of Religious Ethics, March 2016, Vol. 44 Issue 1, p7-16. That still won’t do us, even though I copied it faithfully from the article itself. Since the references list is alphabetical by surname, it has at least to be Bucar, E – and since we also used the date when citing inside the essay, that makes sense to be next. Bucar, E (2016). The rest falls into place as Article title, Journal title and then more precise details. 

Bucar, E (2016) The Ethics of Visual Culture. Journal of Religious Ethics. 44:1, pp7-16.

Or something like that. And that’s where people start to panic.

What was all that stuff about Grindylows?

A Grindylow is “a Yorkshire water-demon who lurks in deep stagnant pools to drag down children who come too near to the water” (Briggs 1976: 206. See also Jenny Greenteeth, Nelly Long-Arms and Peg Powler) and I used the fictitious journals earlier because referencing is itself a bit of a Grindylow in that if you’re not careful it can drag you under if not, as the song has it, by “the fancy tie round your wicked throat.”  Let’s not panic – but I’ll admit that a couple of weeks ago it dragged me under, chasing references because I thought I had lost the notes I was working from – so

Rule 1: Take Notes and Keep Them. Full notes too – not just “Bucar” (as above) but the title and the year of the journal at the very least.

And it can drag you down in other ways too. Tutors are not always very helpful here, and my experience is that we think we are consistent but often we slip or we have different expectations. This isn’t a Brookes thing: I’ve done enough work as an External Examiner, looking at coursework from other Universities, to know that one tutor will find

Bucar, E (2016) The Ethics of Visual Culture, Journal of Religious Ethics. 44:1, pp7-16.

acceptable and one will want

Bucar, E. (2016) The Ethics of Visual Culture. Journal of Religious Ethics. 44:1: 7-16.

But in most cases, marking tutors are less worried about this than you might think.

What all tutors find hard is when key information is missing (e.g. the whole reference – and that happens a lot!) or if it turns up in the text and not in the end list, or it some of it, but not all is in the end list, like these:

Bucar (2016) The Ethics of Visual Culture. Journal of Religious Ethics. 44:1, pp7-16. (Sigh: where’s the initial?)

Elizabeth Bucar, (2016) The Ethics of Visual Culture. Journal of Religious Ethics. 44:1, pp7-16. (Ah crap: now not in alphabetical order.)

The Ethics of Visual Culture. Journal of Religious Ethics. 44:1, pp7-16. Bucar, E (2016)  (What the fuck?)

Bucar, E (2016) Journal of Religious Ethics. 44:1: 7-16. (What the actual fuck?)

Bucar, E. (2016) The Ethics of Visual Culture. Journal of Religious Ethics. Page 14 (Where’s the rest of it?)

And yes I’ve seen all of these. They aren’t the be-all-and-end-all but they sometimes indicate a lack of respect for the sources used. So to be safe:

Rule 2: Make sure all the details are there and in the right order. Styling is helpful. 

We tend not to mind if you have a convention of pp rather than : to introduce page range; we don’t always notice if the author’s initial has a . after it (and some styling argues against it); consistency will help, and if you use things like Cite Them Right (the library at Brookes recommends it) you will rarely stumble too much.

And the third way references can drag you down is the really complex one: why you are quoting in the first place, and what you need those actual words for. Maybe you don’t.  Look back at the guidance from Upgrade about why we reference anyway.

  • to enable other people to identify and trace your sources quickly and easily
  • to support facts and claims you have made in your text
  • to show that you have read widely and use a variety of sources

So it starts from how you access and use your sources. That means

Rule 3: Propping up the Easy-to-Grab Sources as you write and bunging in  quotes that sound good won’t help you make your argument.

Reading, thinking and talking about your ideas will help your argument: quotation for the sake of it is just a bit desperate.

And that reading and discussing will also be the best “entry into the academic club,” in which as a graduate you will be able (and at liberty) to define Higher Education in terms of inclusivity, raising aspirations, employability or plain BS Spotting. Not fancy words, not even, actually, neat referencing – but reading and digesting other people’s ideas and making coherent and engaged arguments that challenge you, challenge the writers you have read and the practices you have seen. Get the references right and then forget them: what you really need, and what your markers are looking for is usually much more about ideas than whether you have put bullet points on all the entries in your references list.

***

PS: Don’t put bullet points on the entries in your references list. It really pisses me off. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Contrarian Questions…

It’s International Women’s Day, or Woman’s Day – there are lots of hashtags on Twitter for it. I have put my contrarian hat on and just have some questions (I’m not going to attempt to answer them, and I have attempted not to load them with commentary – well, not too much). No, they’re not the boring and boorish stuff from eejits asking why there isn’t a Men’s Day (apparently there is, but come on, chaps) nor it is about the pay gap in Education, although probably it should be: it’s just questions arising from having been in professional contexts all my working life where women have been prominent leaders and thinkers and managers, notably in Primary and Early Years education and then in Higher Education in a School of Ed.  I am not commenting here on opportunities for women to lead, or anything like this: I simply  celebrate my time being taught and managed by women who have inspired me.

Last year, very probably my final year in full-time employment, I had a male line manager for the first time since I was a student. It was a nice experience – Roger is a splendid manager, a lovely guy – at a difficult time, so this isn’t a moan about blokes as managers but it does lead me to my first question:

Was it me, or why did I never see having a woman as my boss as an issue?

I learned so much from having a series of headteachers to shape me professionally: Sr Anna in Esh Laude, Leslie Grundy and Elaine Smith at Grandpont. In very different ways they were thoughtful and mindful of my need to learn my trade. When I was a headteacher, I had advisers like Julie Fisher and inspirational figures like Rosemary Peacocke to nudge me, and writers like Tina Bruce and Kathy Sylva.  My next question then:

Should we prepare men coming into Primary and Early Years for some ethos-shocks, or, building on my previous question, might professional development for educators simply take female mentorship and leadership as read? Do men really need their hands holding because they might get told to do something by … a woman?

And finally: well, I continue to work with the School of Education at Brookes, and count its previous and current heads as friends, as well as delighting in working with a strong body of women as well as men. I also work with The Slade Nursery where Carol the head is an inspiration and the staff are a joy. I know umpteen reasons why people press for men to work in Early Years but my last question is

In pressing for men in Early Years are we in danger of seeing the thousands of competent, exciting (female) professionals who are already making a difference to children and families seem somehow lesser mortals?

I said I had a contrarian hat on.