The 10 Non-Commandments (For Humanists)

  1. Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.
  2. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
  3. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.
  4. Every person has the right to control of their body.
  5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.
  6. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.
  7. Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
  8. We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.
  9. There is no one right way to live.
  10. Leave the world a better place than you found it.





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Critical Thinking is Everyone’s Responsibility

There you are: enjoying a nice meal in a nicely priced restaurant. Nothing too fancy, just a basic meal and some good company. And then the squeals begin. And the crying. And the shouting. And the nagging. And the running up and down like wild things. Someone ought to say something. Something like “please, madam, won't you try to control your children?”. Except no one will. We're afraid to take a stand. These days, it's just the way things are. You almost expect it.

And then you chat to people:

“Spirit orbs are real, I've seen pictures,” says one.

“If UFOs don't exist, why have there been so many sightings?” says another.

“I'm telling you, it's a true fact – I saw it on the interwebz, I think it was.” pleads another.

“There's a conspiracy behind it,” states yet another “how else do you account for all the anomalies in the official story?”

Someone ought to say something. Something like “please, people, won't you try to control your thinking?”. Except no one will. We're afraid to take a stand. These days, it's just the way things are. You almost expect it.

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Fundamental Questions

(From the Alone on a Mountain Department)


If we could simmer the totality of humanity's quest for knowledge down to one fundamental question, it would be this:

Why is there something rather than nothing?

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Why I Teach (Part 2)

Half of the reason I write this blog is to be honest and open about my own personal learning journey. (The other half is catharsis!)

With that in mind, here's a letter I got recently from one of my students. It is this kind of thing, more than anything, that motivates this often tired and sometimes grumpy teacher.


We most certainly will, James. Now go out and change the world!


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Against the stream

Sean Hampton-Cole:

The best teacher I know shares her thoughts on ‘streaming’ classes. Definitely worth a close read…

Originally posted on Buzzing Blue Room:


Every teacher has a few classes that will forever be special to them. My very first Grade 10 Art class was one of these. My first class of boys was another. These are classes where things just click. The students get you, and you get them. These are the classes where you soon share little insider jokes with your students, where conflict is almost non-existent and teaching is easy.

I had a class like that this year. I love and adore them on every possible level and, yesterday, when I had to say goodbye to them, I cried. They were funny and charming and insightful. I know it will be a good few years before I have a class this special again. I will have other classes, and there will be successes and failures. It will be good. But they will not be my 10Cs.

Here, however, is the rub.

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Guest Post: Creativity Takes Time (Shelley Peringuey)

Creativity Takes Time

(My Introductory Lesson to English 2014 – By Shelley Peringuey)


The Lesson – Part 1

Two of my objectives this year were to:

  • inspire creative and critical thinking within my students, and
  • encourage philosophical debate within the classroom.

I hoped to teach my classes that they need not think that they have to give the “right” answer, rather I would love for them to come up with a better answer by approaching the question in a unique and creative way, using their ability to think for themselves rather than simply regurgitating facts.

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OK, your nominations for most under-rated movie of the modern era?

Did you mention ‘Unleashed’?

Not many do.

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Why Geography is Good For You (And Why You Should Take It At School)

Don’t take Geography if you want to know what the capitals of the world’s countries are. Don’t take it if you’re interested in the major imports and exports of Tajikistan. And stay away from Geography if you like knowing the location of major rivers, mountains and deserts. These things are not Geography. They may have been half a century ago. But this is not what Geography is today.

Geography is the biggest, most relevant, most future-focussed and dynamic subject there is. You literally study everything there is on planet earth – both the natural elements and the human. It encompasses elements of Biology, History, Economics, Mathematics and huge chunks of Science. It is also both a practical and a deeply philosophical subject.

Yes, the subject matter is diverse – everything from tropical cyclones to volcanoes, from the dynamics of cities to population pyramids. But there’s also a lot more…

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Naked Monkey Freaky Smart Stuff: Six of the Best and Most Accessible and Most Interesting Podcasts That Are Better Than Idols

It's been four years since I got turned on to podcasts. I listen to new episodes on my commute to and from work, during my admin periods, while I'm blogging and just about whenever I can stitch a few moments together.

It's a little sad how few people I know actually listen to podcasts. How do they survive without regular doses of interestingness from Jad and Robert of RadioLab? How is Stuff You Should Know not as big a part of coffee break discussions as is the latest episode of Idols?

It has been almost two years since I published this list of 6 of the Best Podcasts for Teachers, Autodidacts, Critical Thinkers and Other Interesting Types.

I think perhaps the title scared people off. So maybe I need to make podcasts sound a bit sexier. It's time for an update.

Allow me to present:

Naked Monkey Freaky Smart Stuff: Six of the Best and Most Accessible and Most Interesting Podcasts That Are Better Than Idols

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‘UnEducation': A Creative Path to Better Teaching and Learning

Question: What happens when you ‘un’ something?

Answer: You turn it into its opposite. You flip it. Believable becomes unbelievable, blocked becomes unblocked and afraid becomes unafraid. Uning doesn’t make a thing disappear, it simply inverts it. It is not a negation but a reversal.

Just lately there has also been a lot of ‘uning’ in education – unconferencing and unwebinars come immediately to mind. And there is the parallel trend of ‘flipping’.

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A Controversial Philosophy Assignment for 1st Year University Students (And Other Pretentious Types)


Watch the movie Fight Club* and then answer any of these questions in the form of a discursive essay:

  • To what extent is your identity determined by advertisers?

  • Is schizophrenia the inevitable result of hyper-consumerism? Continue reading

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Not Just a Game: Kids on The Value of Chess in Education


As you no doubt know, constant reader (because I have gone on about it enough), I teach a chess class as an elective part of our Grade 9 curriculum.

This year, as part of their final exam I asked them to list what they learnt in chess. The part of me which writes my more skeptical posts was expecting a trickle of bland answers, but what I got back was truly wonderful, and proof again of the value of including basic chess instruction as a part of the school syllabus.

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The Most Unusual and Necessary Piece of EdTech Advice Nobody Else Will Tell You

So you’re integrating technology into your teaching? Great decision! You’ll find heaps online on how to use technology to enhance teaching and learning. You’ll also find a great deal on how to set up your infrastructure effectively and how to reimagine your daily routines, procedures and pedagogies in order to maximize the benefits of technology in education.

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A Starter Reading List for Smart Young People


Click this link to be taken to the list: Books for Smart Young People

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Guest Post: Collaborative Learning in Chiang Mai (Uwe Muller)

During my recent travels in South East Asia, I was amazed at how many coffee shops there were in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The fact that it is a popular tourist spot surely contributes to the demand, but could not possibly be responsible for so many of these establishments.

Whilst strolling around an area called Nimmanhaemin, I was amazed to see how many students of university and school age were in these coffee shops. On closer investigation Continue reading

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Getting to Know You (Student Questionnaire)

This is what I use to get to know my students at the start of the year. Feel free to modify and use for yours.



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The Real Benefit of iPads in Education: A Catalyst for a Critical Change in Pedagogy

7469170810_deaf87df6f_oDuring 2014, I conducted research at my school to see if the introduction of iPads as a learning technology had any educational merit.

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Hey Teacher: Stop Thinking & Do Some Work

(Your results may vary)


I've been thinking quite a lot about thinking of late. Specifically, I've been researching the power of giving students time to think and to reflect – both about the content and skills we teach, as well as the nature and functioning of their own cognitive processes.

The modern teacher always seems to have so much to get through that it isn't always possible to slow down and give kids the time to chew and savor what it is we've served up. But finding the time to allow kids time for quiet, unstructured contemplation (in order to consolidate what they've learned in a deliberate, mindful way) can only lead to a fuller, more personal understanding. And thus improve their performance in the classroom. Moreover, allowing them the time to mull over their own thinking processes gives them the meta-skills required to take on a more efficient, personalized approach to learning.

Taking time to think is important in learning. But not, it seems, in teaching.

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Boys On The Side (Why Schools Are Failing Boys & What To Do About It)

(Originally published: February 2012)
English: The schools in Norrköping were for a ...

Here’s a statistic that shouldn't be: teenage boys are three to four times more likely to take their own lives than girls are. Granted, the research is in its infancy, and most of it is coming out of the United States, but there is something fundamentally wrong here. And it isn't with the research. And it isn't an ‘American problem’ (whatever that is). The problem is this: whatever is causing these young men to decide on suicide, it must – at least in part – be related to their experiences at school. (Since time spent at school amounts to at least a third of their waking hours.)

Boys these days are also more likely to be involved in disciplinary procedures, less likely to graduate from high school, less likely to go on to tertiary education, more likely to be diagnosed with learning problems like ADHD, and more likely to be put on to ‘attention-focusing’ medication. In some of the top schools in the US (ones where entrance exams are required) there is a form of ‘affirmative action’ for boys because not enough of them qualify to get in. Girls pip them by at least 20%. Also in the US, girls are more likely to take Advanced Programmes in every subject – except Physics (Peg Tyre: The Trouble With Boys). And every year, the gap seems to be widening. This is not because boys are ‘slower’, or because they are boys, as boys will be. It is not a ‘quirk’ particular to a gender – one to go along with ‘slugs and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails’. And why do these problems disappear suddenly when these boys become men and enter the ‘real world’? Why does the ‘boy problem’ only really exist while they are at school? Could it be because of school?

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The Kind of Kid I Prefer to Teach

I don't care about how well you do in your tests and exams. I don't care about how much time / money / effort you put into your assignments. I don't care about how well-behaved you are, or how well you work in my class.

These are the traits in a student I prefer:

  • Kids who are quirky are cool. Have weird interests and hobbies. This shows me that you have an unusual mind, that you are comfortable with being different and that you have a character strong enough to resist the conforming influence of peer pressure.

  • If you're kind to other people – even when it's difficult and when they're nasty to you – you're the kind of kid I want to teach.

  • Stand up for the underdogs and I'll stand up for you every time.

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