100 Lessons from A.S. Neill’s ‘A Dominie’s Log’

Short video presentations that use quotes and thoughts from A.S. Neill’s first book, written as a diary of his first year (1914-15) as Headteacher in an elementary school in Gretna Green. How does he reflect and change his teaching, how does he relate to the children, many of whom are from families of tenanted land labourers. What can we learn from this reflective, innovative teacher?

Lesson 1: Break the Scottish Code

The first episode that looks at why A.S. Neill decides to write a book, as a protest against the restrictions of the Scottish Code that defines the School Log as a place absent of thought and innovation.

Lesson 2: Why?

I start lesson 2 sitting on my desk, as I start most of my workshops, with teachers… the image I want them to take away is of A.S. Neill as the archetypal state school teacher sitting on his desk at the end of a school day asking ‘why?’

Lesson 3: How to get rid of Houndsditch?

We start lesson 3 reminding ourselves of the end of lesson 2, when Neill thinks teaching is hopeless as Houndsditch still exists, after some 44 years of national Elementary education. That is, schooling has failed to address the issue of poverty and inequality. But this particular morning he thinks he may have found the answer…

…and how does one respond to educational researchers who dismiss the voice of Summerhill school children and its relevance to other children and schools because it is a private school….

Lesson 4: Discipline.

Lesson 4 has A.S. Neill thinking about discipline, how good is he at disciplining his Gretna Green students, and how is he going to ensure the children are engaged in learning?

Lesson 5: Making Learning Interesting?

Lesson 5 explores what A.S.Neill thinks about children who are not interested in what he is teaching. A subject that he will come to again and again in his job as headteacher of state elementary village school at Gretna Green in 1914-15.

Lesson 6 has A.S. Neill listening to the children playing games in the playground and then changing their seating plan…. to see how their behaviour changes. How does this contrast to the way teachers use their seating plans in the classrooms of today? Is there a difference in values?

Lesson 7 has Neill setting writing tasks such as the autobiography of a nose, a hat, a shoe… the journey of a snail to the school’s front gate… & one of the girls shows creativity and imagination, with humour…. but what will become of her after she is 14 and leaves school?

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