On Teaching

Background  In September I was laid off from my overpaid analyst job (OAJ). No need to feel sorry, I was bored to death, have since deliberately not looked for similar jobs and even turned down a more technical job because reasons. Anyway, what I decided to do was to be a substitute teacher. The way this works in Sweden is you have to take a bunch of on call assignments at random places before you get longer contracts so that’s what I did. I am now in a longer contract but before that I had been to 16 different schools scattered all about, including one week teaching a class from world famous no-go suburbs Rinkeby-Tensta, so I’ll share some general musings about this.

Recommendation Substitute teaching is a nice thing to do if you don’t really have clear plans on what to do next. Compared to (as a randomly picked example) sitting on your ass at McDonalds it has several advantages:

  • You are doing something really useful
  • You get paid. Not fabulously but still
  • It looks reasonably ok on a CV
  • You get to see lots of places around where you live that you probably would not have visited otherwise.

School dicipline A lot of schools have discipline problems. On average of course schols in socioeconomically weak areas have more problems than others, but it is surprisingly random. A class in a posh area can be troublesome and a class in a poor area can be well behaved. Curiously this can even vary a lot within the same school. I have developed a little theory about this. What really matters is number of trouble students (TS). These will be more common in poor areas (possible reasons, ADHD, alcoholic parents, parents who just don’t manage, frequent teacher changes, whatever) but can exist everywhere. If you have zero TS everything is smooth, one is still ok since the others will discipline him/her, two is starting to be a problem and four or more means chaos. In a class with 28 students and P(TS,poor area)=8%, P(TS,rich area)=4% you get:

  • P(0,1 TS, rich area)=quiet class=69%
  • P(0,1 TS, poor area)=quiet class=33%
  • P(>3 TS rich area)=chaos=2%
  • P(>3 TS poor area)=chaos=18%
  • P(2,3 TS, rich area)=intermediate=28%
  • P(2,3 TS, poor area)=intermediate=49%

I can think of several solutions to this. One is that since teachers in tougher areas are often very very tired (and thus perform less well and are sick more often meaning more substitutes meaning the problems get worse) the amount of money per student should be higher in trouble areas so teachers could get 80% positions with the same pay. Another would be to have more special need schools to where you ship off trouble students.

Charter schools There is a lot of debate in Sweden on charter (privately run, public funded) schools vs public schools. There are obviously many aspects to this, I personally think they are bad mainly because they have a negative effect on the entire school system with the student as customer idea. Judging from my, limited, personal experience there are obviously passionate and good teachers working in both types of schools. In areas with a lot of academic parents both types of schools work fine, but in trouble areas the charter schools are worse.

Kid ages 16-19 year olds (and kids in university) are a lot easier to teach than 11-15 year olds. I think there’s two reasons for this:

  • The percentage of restless kids drops as they grow older.
  • School is only compulsory until 15/16 in Sweden. Therefore some of the most troubled kids will be gone in later years.

The latter point is an (I think global) issue. There are some kids around 13-15 who are clearly deeply unhappy about being in school. To solve this either society should try to create jobs for younger kids and makes compulsory school shorter, or you try and create a school environment also for these kids, probably with a larger element of practical subjects.

An effect of this is that it is hardest to recruit teachers for 13-15 year olds. Here the solution is obvious, it has to be reflected in the salary. Ideally salaries should be: Teachers for 11-15y olds > teachers for 6-10 year olds > teachers for 16-19 year olds > university professors.

Now what I have signed up for one year of teaching 16-19 year olds. Still not sure I will be doing ten years of this but so far it beats my previous job. Salary a bit lower but Swedish teacher salaries are actually quite ok. In principle I should do a 1.5 year teacher pedagogical training if I wanted to continue as a teacher, but the teacher shortage in Sweden is such that schools really won’t be able to pick only certified teachers.

How to talk to a woman who has muted you on Twitter

These days, many women mute men on twitter. Yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them. If you suspect a woman has muted you, here are three easy tips for creating a spark with her.

  1. Ask other Tweeps if they can @ her for you, and ask if she muted you and why.
  2. Create a new Twitter account with the name @whydidyoumutemeXXX, then start @ ing her obsessively.
  3. This is really the best option: Just keep @ing her! After all, you’re not really interested in what she has to say.

My personal tech ecosystem

Inspired by this post I decided to share my personal tech ecosystem.

  1. Windows phone It’s like a normal phone except: It looks a bit different (big tiles instead of icons). It has 90% fewer apps. The apps it does have are often in Beta testing that never finishes. The big plus is that Twitter never updates so I have Twitter from 2011 with star faves.
  2. Tablet I don’t carry an iPad around (why the fuck would anyone do that?). I donated the tablet to the kids. Before doing so I tidied it up and filled it with nice, seemingly fun instructive educational games without ads. The kids have now removed all the educational games and filled it to the brim with awful princess games just to spite me.
  3. Laptop I have one of these with a touchscreen. I like it. It’s oddly satisfying to get it to do stuff by stabbing at the screen with your finger. When I was young touching computer screens was a big taboo. It runs Windows 10. What can I say? It’s better than Windows 8.

Lunch at Pepe’s

pepe_neroMost Fridays I have lunch at Pepe Nero on Kungsholmen. The procedure is simple, you go to the counter, choose one out of three items from a set menu and state if you want a beer or not.  Also there is pizza.To the metroliberals on Twitter, for whom lunch means having livery clad waiters bring you oysters and craft beer, it may seem primitive, but strangely enough it works.

Many different people come in here: construction workers, office workers, staff from nearby shops, retired people from the neighborhood. Even if not deliberately eavesdropping you often hear snippets of conversation; People talk about their kids, plans for the weekend, complain about their bosses, or sometimes simply gossip. As you can see this is quite different from the usual conversation on Twitter, which means…squat actually. It doesn’t mean anything or give me any kind of insight in these people’s lives.

The Swedish no-go suburbs

There is a strange story being promoted, mainly by US racists but also reaching further, that there is a number of “no-go zones” in Sweden (another popular term is Muslim Ghetto). Since this comes up every now and then on Twitter I decided to share my experience with three of the places that often feature in the debate, Husby, Rinkeby and Tensta.



My grandmother moved to Husby from central Stockholm in 1975. To this house. She often told me it was marvelous with all sorts of modern facilities and a balcony from which you could see deer.







She died in 2007. She lies buried in this church, in nearby Tensta. I go there sometimes. I take the metro to Rinkeby, walk up to the church in Tensta and then walk across the fields to Husby from where I take the metro back.




My point with this is not to deny that there are social (and crime) problems in parts of Sweden, of course there are. Rather, I wanted to make three points. First, there are no “no-go” zones in Sweden. I know this since I actually go there. Second, it all looks reasonably nice, although obviously these are not rich areas.



Third, if you’re in Stockholm and have some time, you could just go there! There’s nothing to it. Take the blue metro line from the Center to Rinkeby, it takes 18 minutes. Walk a while in the direction of the metro and then turn right. You will end up in the Igelbäcken nature reserve. There are cows. In there you can either aim for the high rises in the Kista tech area or veer a bit to the  left and end up in Husby. There are metro stops in both areas

Pseudonymous Twitter Trolls for remain

So far economists, historians, musicians, drunks, idiots and candlestickmakers have opined on Brexit, but  there has been nothing from Pseudonymous Twitter Trolls (kidding, of course there has, on Twitter). Anyway, inspired by @zatapatique I have decided to be spokestroll and go through some of the arguments from a PTT perspective.

Hitler The leave Hitler argument goes: “Do you know who else was a vegetarian (sorry, tried to unite Europe)?” The remain argument goes, “If UK leaves Heinz-Christian Strache will seize power in Germany and invade France”. The reasonable thing to do isleave Hitler out of it.

Economy There seems to be consensus on short term trouble, while long term effects are more uncertain. The effects will of course depend on which deal the UK gets with the EU, there will be an independence / economy trade off. Only thing I am going to say about this is: Even if you do assume that ten years down the road the UK will be fine outside EU, just disregarding a five year mess seems odd.

Regulation Not sure if anyone really cares about this. Most weird laws are UK made anyway and most of the rest will accompany trade agreements. Main benefit will be getting rid of the cookie directive.

Immigration I guess this is really what the referendum is about. Assuming the UK goes for a total break (so no measly Norway scenario), it will be able to reduce immigration from EU. If people think EU migrants are a bad thing and the price is worth paying voting leave might make sense. Am just going to address one strange leave argument: “If UK leaves it can let in more people from the rest of the world”. The UK could of course already do this, but chooses not to. The reply then is “We will be more restrictive to immigration from A but allow more from B”. This is not how it works. Ever. Anywhere. What always happens  is the exact opposite: A more restrictive attitude towards immigration from A leads to a more restrictive attitude towards immigration from B.

Exit path This should be a problem for Leave. There isn’t one. The Leave camp is like a troubled teenager who goes to a train station to buy a ticket to Out Of Here (someone phrased it better). All talk about how the EU will react is useless at this point, they have nothing to react to. There are two (blah blah, EFTA, Switzerland, not really) main options:

Norway (EEA) option: “All new relevant Community legislation is dynamically incorporated into the Agreement. The EEA Agreement is concerned principally with freedom of movement of goods, persons, services and capital. But also social policy, consumer protection, and environment policy may be covered. The EEA Agreement does not cover agriculture and fisheries.” Leave could have run a campaign like this: We will gain control of agricultural and fisheries policies and pay a reduced EU fee, but we will give up our influence in the EU. They didn’t.

WTO option: This is really what would have to happen if the purpose of this is to control immigration from the EU. The UK relies on its WTO membership to negotiate trade deals. While this will be messy it is of course perfectly possible and is in fact the option Leave is running on. They should admit this. They don’t. It’s a genuine puzzle to me why “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” is an accepted approach to a momentous decision.

Refugees You could of course say the EU has made a mess of this. But what would 28 completely independent countries do? They would have to construct a cooperation mechanism from scratch doing something similar. It would be worse.

Vladimir Here there is already an organization, NATO. But this is for dealing with tank battalions (or something). There are many areas where NATO isn’t the right organization for security. One obvious example is energy where connecting energy markets makes everyone less vulnerable. It’s no coincidence the Baltic countries were so keen on joining both EU and NATO. Again, if the EU didn’t exist, dealing with Vladimir would mean you had to construct something similar.

I didn’t really know how to finish this until I came across this very sweet love letter to the British people. It has a picture of a unicorn. I can only agree. I hope the Brits vote remain.