20 teenagers sitting in a room

This isn’t a particularly informative post, more of a spontaneous expression of an epiphany moment (although one without the elation).

The epiphany comes in the form of a question – Is there any worse way of getting teenagers to concentrate than sitting them in a room with 19 other teenagers and one adult for four and a half hours a day?

I mean I know the typical day at school or college, for most kids at least, will be broken up with more active lessons such as sport and music, but the standard model is 20 teenagers in a room with one adult.

This just seems ridiculous – Assuming an hour and half lesson, it’s too large a number for the teacher to engage with one on one in any meaningful way, it’s too many for everyone to have a meaningful input into a ‘whole class discussion’, so teachers are left reverting to either individual work where not everyone gets monitored, or pair/ group work where some students inevitably lose focus, and if you are going to go against ‘fairyland Ofsted’s’ advice, and do the dreaded lecture – well 20 is an equally pointless number, you may as well film it and stream it to 20 000.

The days of 20 teenagers sitting in a classroom must surely come to and end soon? Surely it’s possible for schools and especially colleges to be a little more creative with teaching arrangements – A combination of online lectures and independent learning combined with more intense, tailored, smaller group sessions and occasional one on one meetings with students where they spend less time sitting in class, but where they get more focused attention and thus more focused working when they are in lessons …. Maybe>?

A related question is where did the educational norm of ’20 teenagers sitting in a room’m actually come from anyway, and how did it evolve? Answers in comments please.

So if my Beacon ‘best 6th form college’ in the country doesn’t actually innovate like it’s supposed to, perhaps I’ll forge this path at the institutional level,  perhaps one day, a year or so before I quit in case it all goes pear shaped, I’ll break all the rules and just do this anyway.


Suicide Updates

One of the perennial joys of teaching sociology is returning to the study of suicide every November, a time of year when, with the nights drawing in against a backdrop of fog, barren trees, rain and sodden leaves, it seems a most appropriate time to do so. The season of depression, self-harm and suicide is almost upon us after all.
This year  I’ve been looking at popular suicide locations, and there are some interesting contrasts between the two most popular places in the world to commit suicide.
These two locations are –
A jumper on the golden gate bridge

1. The Golden Gate Bridge in California – Where more than 1500 people to date have jumped the equivalent of 25 stories and 49/50 succeed due to the massive internal injuries they typically receive on impact.

2. The Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan – Known as Japan’s suicide forest, in which approximately 100 people kill themselves each year through primarily hanging or poisoning. More people may, in fact, have killed themselves in the forest than at the Golden Gate Bridge, but in recent years the local government has stopped publishing figures in an attempt to downplay the extent of the bleak activity, so we have no accurate overall total number.
These  two locations are obviously very different from each other they are and  I’m left wondering the extent to which the different methods and locations reflect different cultural attitudes to suicide….
The Golden Gate Bridge is a very public place and there is a high degree of spectacle about jumping. As John Bateson, former director of a crisis centre for the depressed and suicidal covering the Bay area, says  “There is kind of allure to the bridge…. a notoriety to be gained from jumping from the Golden Gate. For a brief period people receive an attention in death that may have been denied to them in life.”
Thus in addition to whatever reason these individuals may have for jumping it’s almost as if jumping from the bridge is an expressive act – a kind of ‘look at me and f**k you’ parting message to America. These people could, after all, just quietly overdose in their bedrooms. The fact that most people jump facing towards land offers further support for this notion.
Compare the high drama of the bridge-jump to the Forest – A much more secluded and isolated space where the Japanese choose to die by private methods – The woods in fact being notorious for the ease with which one can get lost because of the density of the trees and the lack of trails. Normally one would associate poisoning as a softer method more associated with a plea for help than the blunt force trauma of the bridge, but I’m inclined to think the opposite is the case here as the isolation of the forest makes it unlikely that one will be found.
It’s also quite likely that we are witnessing two very different types of suicide in these two locations with the jumpers more likely to be committing suicide out of a sense of anomie – given the fact that there is a correlation between mental illness and suicide amongst jumpers and secondly this is Califorinia, where the sense of relative underachievement must run high amongst those who don’t make it.
Meanwhile in the suicide forest we are probably witnessing egoistic suicides given the very strong correlation between unemployment and suicide in Japan. 
For further information try these links –  

A documentary film by Eric Steel – The Bridge

Schizophrenic people are more likely to jump from bridges

The Suicide Paradox in America 

Japan’s Suicide Forest

The Economist – Suicide in Japan

Suicide in Japan’s Forest

Top 10 suicide sites in the world

Top Ten Suicide Sites in the world