Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category


This blog is in suspended animation. I’m caught with some intense research right now and blogging once every couple of weeks does not do good by those of you who’ve been coming here frequently.

Thanks a lot for reading and I hope to be back online sometime between 4-6 months from now.


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teacher at a school 150 years ago

Last March, when I was interviewing a few teaching candidates, one told me that “Teaching was a Woman’s job” and that men “should find themselves something better.”


I have often wondered what some of the historical reasons for the predominance of women in our classrooms are. Last week, while researching American Education History, I came across an interesting fact that throws some light on this.


The Carnegie unit and the Graded classroom are typical of schools all over the world; so it is the case in America. But it has not always been so. Before Horace Mann, American Educator and Politician went across the pond, visited schools and came back with the idea of the graded school, American education and classrooms were vertically grouped.


What that meant was that students aged 5 to 20 were schooled together in the same class. Because of presence of older students, men were required to maintain order in the classrooms. As the graded classroom evolved and students of the same age started being schooled together to the exclusion of other ages, managing them because easier. This ushered in women into American classrooms.


The same is seen even today – the percentage of men teaching High School is significantly higher than the percentage teaching elementary school.

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I have been reading about Kurt Hahn. I have marked interest in his work and ideas. Doon, the school I attended, based many tenets of its constitution in his philosophy. The Outward Bound Schools also owe their vision to his dreams.

I wanted to share this fantastic quote by him:

A great teacher never sets himself above his students except in carrying responsibilities.”

This one is going onto my softboard.

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Giorgi, a colleague, enlightened me about the Bologna Convention today. I had never heard of the Bologna Convention before today and when he told me about it, I thought it was a great idea.


The process that kickstarted in 1998 with the Sorbonne Declaration is an attempt to get most of the European Higher Education system on the same page by 2010.


This would mean that across Europe (I am told that the US has shown interest in joining too) all schools would try and achieve equivalence of credits, curricula and calendars. This would make it easier for students to move between universities and seek jobs more easily within the EU.


Indirect benefits of this will be:

1. Greater diversity in classrooms across the EU.

2. Universities that have fallen behind in keeping with the pace of change would probably get their act together and come up to a common minimum standard acceptable to all.

3. Students would be able to cheery pick the best courses at the best faculties across all universities in the common area- this would again put pressure on universities to become more contemporary to remain competitive.


I am assuming that an important policy decision would be to strive for a common language of teaching across Europe as well. While universities would continue to teach in national language, English would have to be offered as a common language in order for this integration to be successful. It’s not much help allowing students to move from Sweden to Italy to study in classrooms where they don’t understand the language.


Read more about the Bologna convention and it’s timelines here.


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I was supposed to be off the blog until I reached Boston.

Then I came across a nice story about behaviour modification in a six-year old. Homework goes Vroom, a must read, will tell you how a six-year-old was ‘gulled’ into loving spelling and giving up his precious train set.

(Post Rating: There is a little profanity, so if you think you’d be bothered by it, skip this, and head to our other posts here)

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A few weeks ago, Ryan mentioned he the only male primary teacher in his school. My theory (in his comments section) was that in several countries (like in India) teacher pay is graded by class taught, with those teaching higher classes getting better pay. Moreover, teaching a higher class may have a longer, or more strenuous work-day. The two facts combined with the traditional role of the man as the primary bread earner results in men choosing to teach higher classes (or alternately, the long hours keep some women off this vocation).


Now it seems that part of the reason may be attributed to a selection bias. It seems that the stereotype of the male sexual offender is making men are less attractive to school Boards and Administrators an/or making teaching in elementary school less attractive to qualified male teachers.

A Wall Street Journal article has more:

Are we teaching children that men are out to hurt them? The answer, on many fronts, is yes. Child advocate John Walsh advises parents to never hire a male babysitter. Airlines are placing unaccompanied minors with female passengers rather than male passengers. Soccer leagues are telling male coaches not to touch players.

Child-welfare groups say these are necessary precautions, given that most predators are male. But fathers’ rights activists and educators now argue that an inflated predator panic is damaging men’s relationships with kids. Some men are opting not to get involved with children at all, which partly explains why many youth groups can’t find male leaders, and why just 9% of elementary-school teachers are male, down from 18% in 1981.

I’m not sure I agree with the reasoning here. I feel it may be a selection in favour of women not a selection against men that leads to the skewed percentage of male elementary-school teachers. You can however, read the entire story here.

Further Reading (click on numbers)

#1 Sex Offender Alert: Know when a Sex Offender moves into your area (Couldn’t help noticing that all the offenders profiled on this page were male!

#2: Men’s Awareness: A blog that showcases several examples to flout the male sex offender stereotype

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I took music lessons from age six to fourteen, but had no luck with my teachers, for whom music did not transcend mechanical practicing. I really began to learn after I had fallen in love with Mozart’s sonatas. The attempt to reproduce their singular grace compelled me to improve my technique. I believe, on the whole, that love is a better teacher than sense of duty.

– Albert Einstein

Image Courtesy: Bill Viccaro

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