Category Archives: Review

WEIGHING PIGS DOES NOT MAKE THEM HEAVIER

weighing pigs

If you want to evaluate received wisdom or scrutinise your personal assumptions about our current system of assessment, then Adrian Brown’s book Reassessing the Culture of Assessment: Weighing Pigs Does Not Make Them Heavier is for you. It won’t give you answers. It won’t present a pre-packaged, neatly ordered assessment protocol complete with Christian perspective to slot comfortably into your thinking. What it will do is present a lucid analysis of current practice, encouraging you to question whether such a paradigm is consistent with a Christian worldview and is in the best interests of the unique individuals whom we teach, each one made in the image of God.

The strength of the Grove titles is their limited length; each book totals no more than 10,000 words. As a result, ideas come thick and fast, with arguments posited but not developed. It’s left to the reader to think each idea through for themselves, so in that sense for a very small book it packs a very big punch.

The text is structured in 5 chapters with an additional brief conclusion. After setting out his stall in the Introduction (you may have thought that Torchwood is sci-fi, but think again!) the author takes you through the current culture of measurement which relies solely on standard linear notions of progress by which to define success.

This is followed by an analysis of the blame game which results from such a narrowed view, and the common fallacies on which our current system is built – ATs and ALIS among them. The final chapter, Strengthening the Things That Remain, explores ‘a number of things that might feature in education marked by perennial insights from the Christian worldview’.

This is a balanced book. It deftly avoids the risk of dystopia by encouraging us to find ways to redress the balance through a thoughtful analysis of what we do, and why and how we do it. As a reader you are left with a significant conflict to resolve. An obsession with making judgments of your teaching and your pupils’ learning using a narrowed definition of success has become a cultural imperative. For Christian teachers there is also a moral imperative — to support each student to maximise not just their earning potential but also their potential as a whole, rounded person.

If you wonder how, as a Christian teacher, you can have any impact in a secular context in which you may often feel marginalised, read this book and engage in the debate. We are called to be ‘salt and light’ in our world, (Matthew 5:13—16). Seeing beyond the ‘one-size-fits-all’ paradigm and helping to develop the God-given character of your pupils because God loves them is doing just that.

Grove Books  978-1-85174-790-0  28pp softback  £3.95  Available post free on 01223 464748, sales@grovesbooks.co.uk or by visiting www.grovebooks.co.uk

IF YOUR FORGET EVERYTHING ELSE, REMEMBER THIS

B1071 Remember_this WEBYou’re sleep deprived as you rise to the challenges of the day: the noise, the mess, the endless activity.  Your arbitration skills are honed to perfection; you could negotiate for the UN.  Your counselling ability is stretched to capacity as you pick up the pieces of broken friendships and broken hearts, or as you bandage sprained imaginations. And lurking just outside your conscious thought is that nagging question: Am I getting this right? If this is you, then you must be a parent.

In which case, you need to read Katharine Hill’s book If you forget everything else, remember this: parenting in the primary years. Instead of this book, I had a How To book. One of my children conformed to the book so closely she could have been given away as a free sample with every copy. From the get go, my other child seemed intent on doing the polar opposite of everything in the book. I’m happy to report that they’ve both arrived in adult life intact, as caring, thoughtful and poised people, happy in their own skin. But if only I had been given this book, instead of the How To book…

The author enjoyed parenthood so much that she embarked on it four times, in the process learning a lot about the vagaries of sharing daily life with small humans. She regales readers with accounts of the day she accidentally left one of her children in London; her son’s creative use of muesli to avoid school, and the inevitable attraction of Coco Pops to the pristine clothes of children dressed for a wedding.

There are laugh-out-loud moments – her husband’s idea of calming down a boys’ sleepover in the small hours with a water pistol. There are poignant moments too – she writes movingly about the day when one of their sons, after years of snuggling into bed with them every morning, suddenly and without notice, stopped. But there is also profound wisdom in each pithy chapter.

Actually, think of it as 42 thoughts – each one short enough to read while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, but each one thought-provoking enough to make you linger over your cup of tea.  Reflect on the power of words, the value of wonder and imagination and the special role of grandparents. Ponder on how to parent with elastic, how to give your child roots, and how to model values. Think about your parenting style, how you set up boundaries and how you make sure they are kept.  Muse over what it means to laugh together, to eat together, to play together and to cry together.  Deliberate on when to leave your child to face the consequences of their forgetfulness, when to take a walk in his moccasins and how to choose your battles.

But this isn’t just a collection of wise thoughts. It is written by a parent who has been there, done it and worn out the T shirts. Embedded in the overarching themes of love and relationship is an understanding that we’re all in this together, regardless of the differences between our children, our families and our parenting. We all feel guilty. We all feel anxious. And we all ask: Am I getting this right? While this book won’t answer that particular question, it will help you navigate the challenges, face the dilemmas and know that you aren’t the only one asking the question in that exciting, nerve-wracking journey that is parenting.

About the author: Katharine Hill is UK Director for Care for the Family and a popular speaker, writer and broadcaster. She has served as a family lawyer and as a member of the board of the International Commission for Couple and Family Relations. The book is published by Muddy Pearl and retails at £7.50. Click here to read a sample.

BEYOND BEANS ON TOAST

Beyond Beans On Toast

Remember the old joke about beans on toast – that the beans keep falling off in the toaster? Well, those creative people at Festive have come up with a way of solving the problem – they’ve moved Beyond Beans on Toast.  In the process, they’ve produced a contemporary and accessible resource for anyone heading off to University this autumn.

From Roast Chicken and Chorizo, to Chocolate Cake in a Cup, via Thai Green Curry, the lavishly illustrated step by step recipes donated by a professional chef will not only ensure that students  eat well, but that they will be able to impress their new friends with their culinary prowess. No cheap ready meals or takeaways needed for anyone who heads off to Uni with this book amongst their possessions! But don’t just take my word for it – take a sneaky peek at a preview copy here.

This is so much more than a recipe book, though. It’s akin to a survival manual for those first few weeks of transition – what to take, how to enjoy the new found freedom without spending money, and how to meet people and make new friends. There’s a section on budgeting (just where does the money go?), on how to keep the belly bugs at bay when you’re master of your own palate, and on how to get the most out of a student life that has everything on offer.

But as its title suggests, Beyond Beans on Toast goes beyond the practical. Interspersed between recipes and common sense advice are stories of real students who found faith during their student years; people from all kinds of backgrounds who each found answers to their questions about God. It’s the ideal gift to give to your friends who are heading off to University, to students in your church or maybe to your child or grandchild as they take that first big step into independent adult life.

Festive’s aim is to provide every FE College and Sixth Form Christian Union with 50 copies of this book to give away as gifts – click here to request your copies and here to find a wide range of ideas for a giveaway. The book retails at £4.99 (bulk discounts are available) if you are an individual who would like to give a gift copy to someone.

Every so often a book stands out from the crowd and this is one of those books. It’s not just about the quality of the publication (although that is exceptional). It’s also about relevance to its audience (you won’t find anything to better it) and quality of content. This is a small book with a huge content which could, quite simply, transform the lives of those who read it.

So before you do anything else, check out the preview pages again while you’re deciding how many copies you need to secure. Well, go on. What’s keeping you?