I don’t think this is too controversial, or perhaps anything profound, but I’ve just this moment realised that, due to my whack-a-mole reading habits, I read something new about history every single night. Sometimes I might read a single page before a hand snakes out of the duvet to the light switch, whilst at other times I’ll read for a few hours.
This is nothing new for many of us, but what I’ve realised is that I use some of that new knowledge every day. Last night I was reading a bit of Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands (not a light read) and found myself talking a little bit about the failure of collectivisation in Ukraine in 1931 today to a Y9 class. They were starting to see similarities in the autocratic rule of Stalin and Hitler, and so were struggling to understand the traditional left-right differences (although they did eventually come up with the horse shoe with which history teachers will be au fait). I do this a lot, but I hadn’t made the rather obvious link to my own reading habits.
Had I not read those few pages last night the world wouldn’t have ended, but it’s just an extra piece of colour in the history. Every bit of knowledge expands my palette, and with each new shade I can – apparently without realising it – paint a new detail which better illustrates the past. And knowledge breeds knowledge.
Do I go out of my way to find something new every night? Not purposefully, but one might, I suppose. Maybe it’s just my timeline, but I often see mathematicians sharing difficult equations, and geographers sharing new maps, peppered with interesting data. But how often are we aware of giving students this knowledge? And if we’re not, should we be? I think so.
Read one thing new every night and share it the next day. Find an opportunity and actually say, “So, I read last night that x, y, z – isn’t that amazing?” It shows you’re learning, but also that you care about your subject and the world. Colour in your subject.