Was there ever a question you wanted to ask your teacher? Did they really live in the cupboard? Where did the class hamster go? Here are some I've been asked recently...
In a previous setting, I remember a big debate forming part of a staff meeting; how can we change the phrase 'Book Scrutiny' to something less demonic? For many, these two words send a shock of fear down the spine. However, I fail to think of many professions that don't encompass some form of Quality Assurance, and ours is no different. Moreover, it shouldn't be. It's just, as per usual, the strategies employed have often left a bad taste in people's mouths, resulting in negative connotations of such actions: scrutiny, observation, audit...sweating yet? Don't.
The silly thing is, unsurprisingly, whatever you call the Quality Assurance in any profession, its primary objective remains the same. Therefore, it's not the idea of being scrutinised that we don't like - it's the idea of 'failing' it. Furthermore, it's the proceeding steps that cause the discomfort; what happens next? That's the bit we need to get better at. It's common sense to check the quality of a product. Your car goes for an MOT, restaurants leave you a comment card, and I know you've heard of Trip Advisor. It's a necessity. Often misconducted.
My post today comes with a couple of aims:
Below, you will find 2 pieces of writing, each, from a small group of children in my English class. They will be presented as a series of paired sliding photos; one pair per child.
My writing process is very much based on Pie Corbett's methods. I first starting writing about him here. Check it out!
I teach writing using a three step process. I presented each step in 3 separate blogs that you can read by clicking below:
I was once asked how I plan English. After giving a terrible verbal answer, I wrote it down. Give that a read here and here.
All of my teaching relates to what I call the ToolBox. Whether displayed or otherwise, you can read more about that (with free resources) here.
Now I feel scared. I wonder if I'm actually brave enough to press POST.
Disclaimer. I'm more than aware we are very much 'working towards' age expectations. However, I am so proud of how far they have come in a single term, and I am really looking forward to building on our strong foundations. I am pleased to be developing a class of young writers, who are seeing themselves as such; writers. We will add further tools to our ToolBox in the coming terms. Let me know if you'd like updates!
I'm not really a shouter. More one of those, "I'm so disappointed" teachers. In my opinion, the 'shout' is your last card to play, and once you've played it, you've got nothing left. IF you play it, it needs to mean something. WHEN you play it, there needs to be reason enough for it.
Picture it; you foolishly played the last card too early, over something comparatively menial. Perhaps you were trying to exert misplaced authority. Perhaps you thought if you got REALLY cross over that accidental pencil snap, NOTHING would ever go wrong ever again. Well my friend, for want of a better phrase, you're wrong.
Believe it or not, we work with the busiest brains, with the least experience. The trouble with trying to make learning exciting, is that you're doing it with the least controllable minds - the little people who can't sleep on the eve of their birthday. They're going to slip up, make mistakes and likely have some regrets. We all do; don't pretend you've never made a silly choice.
That's why I think we should use our experience of life, and the relevant routes we have taken, to teach the children responsibility, by way of managing their behaviour. Let them know of your difficulties, and how you overcame them. Tell them you used to find X, Y and Z hard, and how you practised to get better. Let them know that you also got into trouble, and how you wished you'd paid attention, because 10 years later...
Then, last year, it snowballed after I met another teacher wishing to get the children to understand the value of hard work. She organised a fantastic Career Day (which you can read about here). We had all of our Upper Key Stage Two involved with speaking to lots of different volunteers, who had kindly offered to tell us about their jobs, how they got to where they are, and any difficulties they faced along the way.
While these talks were geared towards the benefits of being a hard worker with a positive attitude, they also filtered nicely into managing behaviour and making good choices. That's what I think behaviour management should be all about; making good choices. That's a far more long term impact than screaming at someone.
Like Dave Benson-Phillips would have said in the 90s, it's time for my kids to get their own back. It was only fair that they wrote me an end of year report...
I don't think any of us can believe how quickly the year has flown by, and I have thoroughly enjoyed myself - I hope you have too!
Coming to a new school is always daunting - it doesn't matter whether you're a child or an adult, the worries are still the same. You still need to make new friends and learn where things are kept. The timetable might be different and they'll definitely have new routines to learn. I'm really pleased you were the class to help me. You'll understand why, when you go to secondary school.
In many ways, the class a teacher has is the best bit, the biggest difference. A good class make a teacher work hard, just as much as a good teacher makes a class work hard. I feel like we found a good balance; decent effort, resulting in us being able to enjoy the 'banter' (as you like to call it). I've looked forward, most days (let's not go too far), to coming to work with you. You're wired, but use your powers for good - rather than evil - and you'll go far.
You have a lot of heart, and I'm impressed by the way you protect each other. Granted, the squabbles are completely unnecessary, but you make the best team when you pull together; you've evidenced this many times. With many characters to tolerate, I'm overwhelmed by much of your maturity and the understanding you have of everyone's backgrounds; there are a lot of adults in the world that could learn a lot from you.
They say school days are the best days of your life. It doesn't always feel like it, but it's true.
Moreover, they're the perfect rehearsal for adulthood.
Right now, it's your homework, but your future boss hands out deadlines too!
Right now, they're the naughty child, but that co-worker will always be irritating.
Right now, it's called playtime, but your friend's 30th birthday bash is fast approaching!
Keep an eye on your future; it's where you're heading and this time is important - you just don't realise it yet.
Best of luck little people.
At whatever point I met you, in whatever setting (educational or otherwise) thank you so much for being part of my story. I'm a big believer in everything happening for a reason, there are lots of lessons to learn; I met you because I had something to learn from you, something to lead me to my next decision.
To those I have left behind,
While I miss you greatly, I don't hesitate to say I am having the best time! Whether I met you in uni halls, on a job paying for my degree, or at any point since qualifying, our chapter was an important one - otherwise I wouldn't be in the position I'm in today! I hope your story is going well too!
To those I have started with,
Thank you so much for being so welcoming! I am still in an element of disbelief when I think about where I have ended up. Work hard, play hard comes to mind; it's the best mix of productive and hilarious. You make this life the most fun. It has real purpose without losing any realism.
To the ones down the corridor,
I admire your patience as I stand in your doorway, on a daily basis, spouting some rubbish. Thank you for taking the time to hear me out and help with so many queries. Finding a group like you isn't easy. I reckon you could single handedly solve the 'Recruitment Crisis'.
To my team,
Truly, I think what we have done this year is very special. The autonomy we have afforded each other has been the cause of our greatest successes, I think we make a great team. I am really looking forward to the new academic year to build on what we have created so far.
To those I am yet to meet,
Success in this life is largely down to outlook - change your outlook to change your life. It's very difficult, but you never know what could happen until you give it a go! Make calculated risks, good choices. I cannot wait to meet you!
I started the year with what my classroom looked like, so it seemed only right to end the year with what it looks like now! Any teacher will know that how you visualise things and how they end up, are two completely different entities. So here's what happened...
Our Learning Walls
My English Working Walls became a staple part of my lessons, an extra resource that I referred to daily. I've got a separate post about them currently drafted. The main rule is that nothing gets added unless it has been used with the children (otherwise it just becomes wall paper). Ideally, I like to think the children seeing it being used and then pinned to the wall gives it a bit more context.
It was a great idea in theory, but it's nothing that marking wouldn't have told me. It would have added ownership, but I also felt I'd achieved a great deal of ownership with the Entry Quizzes (which are one of the things I will definitely continue in the new year).
I have really enjoyed using this, almost as a scrap book. It's been really easy to add to and take from. Depending on what we've been learning at the time, it's been useful to refer to, a simple place to add 'things we've learnt', a great source of feedback and it's also served as a place to display those extra bits they bring in as homework or independent study. In future, I'd like to add more photos and maximise its use at the beginning and end of lessons. I love a Post-It!
Dear Student Teacher,
Upon hearing I was working with you, I felt a mix of emotions. On one hand, the thought of relinquishing control made my skin itch. The last time this happened, it didn't go well. But conversely, I was also dreadfully excited. I've always wanted to work with a Teaching Student, and here's why...
Throughout my own teaching years, I have always felt there's too much emphasis placed on the false link between experience and success. While I don't doubt that there is a strong relationship between the 2, I've despised the reliance people place on them as 2 constantly functioning qualities; just because "you've been doing this a long time', it doesn't mean you're any good at it (you're just outstanding at getting away with it). Equally, just because "you're new", it doesn't mean you have less to offer.
In fact, I believe the exact opposite. You have the most to offer.
Fresh out of training; the newest policies, the latest research, most modern language... My reasoning writes itself. Although I don't believe in persistently jumping ship in order to be up-to-date, there is great validity in everything you're taught, and everything is worth a shot. It's vital for those of us no longer in training, to observe new strategies from professional think-tanks - your training provider and the like. Yes, we could hear the ideology of it, from a course with a good lunch. But we could also observe it within our own classrooms, with you as the Course Leader! We can discuss, share, debate (rather than leaving at 2.45pm "if we work through the afternoon tea break").
Yes, there is still lots to learn - we all have lots to learn - but all of your future experience means nothing without the enthusiasm, passion and hard work you exhibited. You're charismatic, a great role-model for the children and brimming with ideas. You came into my classroom and got to know each learner individually. You helped them learn new concepts, identified difficulties and addressed the gaps. Those are skills your training won't ever teach you. Those are skills that make your future experience valuable.
Thank you for launching yourself into teaching; you're a hero. I learnt a lot from you, and I hope you got something from the experience too! Congratulations on securing yourself a job; they're very lucky to have you.
Light and life,
The first thing I ever wanted to be was a teacher. Inside my bedroom, I made displays on the backs of my wardrobe doors, had a small collection of exercise books from the local stationers, and I sometimes transformed my room into a 'trip', where I'd laid out non-fiction texts and guide books from places I'd been with my family.
As I grew up, I went through a series of other professions as my target. In many ways, I think I am lucky to have returned to my original idea of becoming a teacher; it gave me a path to follow and a clear end goal. It also meant, whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had an obvious answer.
But what are you to do if you're not sure? Rush into a decision? Lie? Say you don't know?
I like to think I would have gone for option 3, but I suppose I'll never know. At what point do you need to choose? At what point are you allowed to change your mind? Would we become greater successes, with more time to plan ahead, to make our options?
With this in mind, a teacher at my school wanted to open our children's minds to the sorts of jobs out there, and it was one of the most rewarding things I've ever been part of. It wasn't an occasion to pigeon-hole them into a job at 10 years old, but a rare opportunity for them to speak to a huge variety of people about what on Earth they do all day!
It all started with a simple letter to parents, asking if they'd be willing to volunteer their time to speak to our Year 5 and 6 children about their profession. We waited for the exact details of how to organise the event until we knew the sort of response we would get.
A few weeks flew and we received just over 20 replies, all from a wide variety of industries. The response was so good, our teacher decided to hold the event across an entire day. We split the volunteers across 4 classes (5 in each) and the children rotated around each room for each lesson of the day. It was fantastically organised - with a throw-back school lunch thrown in too - and our children gained so much from the experience.
We had a foster carer who explained the 24/7 nature of her job.
A few people from banks, customer service roles and international companies.
We had a midwife, who explained the reason for her profession was to help other mothers.
We had a globe-trotting businessman who explained how his schedule impacts on family life.
There was a publisher who's recently worked with a famous British Vlogger.
A professional footballer who explained his plan B after a career-shattering injury.
A couple of firefighters, a policeman and a few engineers.
We had a clinical psychologist and an occupational therapist.
A student teacher, childminder and Civil Servant.
In a spare hour between meetings, our Head Teacher even came to sit with a group!
Our children were totally inspired. As an anchor, we prepared a small booklet featuring the names of all our volunteers, with space for the children to write questions and make notes. We started the day with what they'd like to be, if they knew, and ended the day with the same question. It was not expected that they changed their mind as a way to 'show progress', but it was interesting to hear how many of them came up with 'but if that doesn't work out...' or had a clearer idea of a route to help them get to where they wanted.
Qualifications, experience and further education are all very samey from your teacher's voice. It verges on nagging. But to hear about the value of effort and hard work, from a wide range of different people, was invaluable.
The day was a complete success; the product of a teacher's work, another example of supporting our learners. I'd recommend you try it yourself. We will definitely repeat it, although maybe spread it across a few half-days; our volunteers essentially had the same conversation 20 times, which can be tricky.
Thank you to our teacher, who masterminded the whole thing, and thank you to our volunteers who I don't think will ever realise the impact they have had.
Not too long ago, one of our lessons was based on creating our perfect world. I asked the children what their perfect world would be like, and we came up with strategies to help us make that happen. Their ideas were perfectly plausible, the product of innocent naivety. Common sense ideas to reduce the cons of this planet, the antidote to the daily headlines. They were kind, thoughtful and very considerate.
So I ask you the same question. What's your perfect world, and how would you make it happen?
This modern age is full of ignorance; gender stereotypes, lack of religious understanding, racism, homophobia, greed, abuse of all types; overarching labels, with no real relevance, attached to groups of people we're too ignorant to get to know personally. Ignorance is the main fuel of conflict; the internal combustion of our own kind. Yet here, in my school, I work with the most open minds available. So at what point does that change? At what point do we rely on labels as a get-out clause for laziness, unaware of the deeper messages this transmits?
Recently, I took myself off to some free Professional Development, provided by the University of Greenwich in conjunction with Shaun Dellenty, Founder of Inclusion for All and recent receiver of the 'Mayor's Highest Civic Honour' and 'Point of Light Status' award from the Prime Minister. His work is predominantly around tackling LGBT+ issues within education, but all of his strategies can be used to prevent all types of discrimination; a break-down of labels.
He has stories of horrific discrimination at all stages of life. My own misunderstanding appeared when he told a tale of the Crouch family, who lost their son to suicide; not because he identified himself as one of these labels and was being teased, but because others forced these labels on him and he couldn't take it anymore; being continuously taunted for something he never was, and the misplaced shame attached to belonging to that group. I'd not considered the impact of language on someone that wouldn't relate with it in the first place.
The power of the bully is overwhelming. But the power of society is stronger.
As establishments for education, we are legally obligated to care for the well-being of ALL learners. Furthermore, as a race of human beings, we are morally required to support the emotional and physical health of each other, if we are to ensure longevity; a prosperous existence, strengthening each generation in readiness for the next. To do anything else would be counterproductive. It's not necessarily accepting someone's differences, by way of agreement, but acknowledging their differences as a part of what makes them a unique human, like you; promoting their right to live and learn - just like you do - by giving no reason to break attendance or feel distracted by outside influences, taking away from the teaching of basic skills for life.
You might not understand this person's life, or how their culture operates, but that's not a reason to hate them. Let them be.
Show strength through your ability to allow others to be their authentic selves, rather than weakness by joining a band of desperate pessimists, intent on unravelling those brave enough to support people, struggling with their identity, based on the superficial use of stereotypes they feel like they need to fulfil.
Your gender, the colour of your skin, your orientation, your religion, country of origin...the list goes on. Even within those categories, there are tangents; family set-up, hair and eye colour, taste in music, types of clothes... We can keep going. It gets to a point where the venn diagram looks like an elegantly drawn Spirograph (remember those?); it's possible to break each category down so much, that we end up with groups of one.
So how about we use just one label; your name.
How about we refer to just one group, the only group we have in common; human beings.
Dear Bully; your misplaced dislike of these glorious people isn't their fault. It's your own arrogant refusal to be educated - an apparent preference for gruesome headlines that cause my young people great concern.
Walk into any classroom and you'll find this huge variety of backgrounds sat around a table; human beings, each with a name. They might be discussing some incredible music they've just heard, or debating a moral dilemma. They might be sharing the religious festival they attended, or a funny family story. They might be helping each other solve a problem, or laughing at their teacher's terrible drawing...
One day, in many years, that table might be replaced with a pub bar, or train carriage. Office desk or queue at the bank. They'll still be laughing.
Bully, you won't win. Our young people are smarter than you.
Let's continue to teach our children to celebrate difference, as a way to learn more about each other, to break down stereotypes and be more inclusive of everyone. If not for now, then for the future. Show compassion. It's the only way this population will survive; All Inc.