My favourite teachers were all a little bizarre – in the nicest possible way. Wouldn’t your lessons have been boring if every teacher was the same?
There was the dyslexic chemistry teacher who used to write formulae backwards on the board just to test us, so he said. It did work though.
We had a very scared teacher for maths who struggled with managing some of the class but provided great one-to-one support on demand.
My English teacher was convinced that dinosaurs had never existed since they were not mentioned in the Bible (honestly) but really helped me to develop my debating skills.
We usually first look for strengths in pupils before looking for areas of improvement whereas we often look for weaknesses in teachers so that they can be weeded out and even publicly vilified.
I love idiosyncratic people who make me think about life in a new way. A Tweet that I read recently asked why the best teachers are often those with the least confidence in themselves. Upon reflection, I think that it is because others often ridicule or criticise those with a different approach to their own.
My view of Teachers for the 21st Century is a collegiate group willing to support each other and embrace different approaches to teaching. Once we have gained enough experience to have evolved our own teaching persona, it is all to easy to think that our way is the right and only way to approach things. Good teachers should strive to bring out the best in each other and not just their pupils, in my opinion.
There has been a lot of good debate recently on what qualities good teachers should have and most comments have focussed on how teachers interact with pupils. We mustn’t forget the need to apply these values to the way in which teachers support and encourage colleagues. A truly collegiate environment needs to promote open discussion without squashing new ideas from others.
I’m embarrassed now at how my opinions were always listened to at departmental meetings when I was a student teacher. I know that I was naive and I’m sure that the others had heard it all before but I was never made to feel that my opinion was valued any less than the rest of the group. It was only later as a more experienced member of staff that I realised that this is not the norm in many staffrooms. Hopefully Curriculum for Excellence will help us all to realise that there is more than one way to tackle any task so that we can embrace our differences more readily.
This 4th edition of Lee Canter’s book about Positive Behavior Management for Today’s Classroom provides guidance for teachers, both new and experienced, which really works.
The advice given provides a structure which will work in any school regardless of its discipline policy. The suggested steps are flexible enough for teachers to personalise while still outlining a consistent framework for pupils.
The emphasis on making it clear to pupils that they are responsible for their own behaviour means that difficult classes are soon won over without the need for battling. Once classes see that the teacher has clear rules and simple consequences then they quickly realise that it is easier to comply and there is no longer any fun in misbehaving. Difficult pupils may still act up but they are no longer able to be a source of distraction and the teacher can relax as they regain control.
Highly recommended for new teachers to help them establish a positive atmosphere in their class without having to rely on constant support from senior staff.
If you are offered a training workshop with Geoff Moss on how to implement the advice given in this book then sign up quickly, before the places are snapped up!
I love to be in an empty school staffroom, cocooned from the clamouring world outside. There’s hot coffee on tap in my favourite mug (or someone else’s) and the best choccie biscuits that money can buy.
Nobody knows where you are so they cannot phone you. If anyone does come in, they will not speak to you (since they’ve come to seek refuge also). Bells are muffled and toilets are luxurious (most have soft toilet paper and some even have liquid soap). Staffroom seats are comfy, yet supportive. Carpets and surfaces are clean so there is a calm atmosphere, not like my house. The clock ticks loudly and time passes by slowly….the most relaxing place in the world, until the bell rings.
My favourite quote which I use with student teachers is from a principal teacher of Biology that I met in her final week of teaching before retirement. Her enthusiasm for teaching was infectious and she had provided excellent support to my student in her department. When I asked her how she’d managed to maintain such an obvious passion for teaching, she said it was because she had endeavoured to learn something new every day. That is what I want my students to be able to say after they’ve spent 40 years in the job, not that I’d taught them all that they needed to know in their 18 weeks on campus during teacher training . Being able to recognise what they still need to know is half the battle, in my opinion.I believe that it is normal for new teachers to think that their tutors didn’t give them enough practical advice during their training. I know that I certainly felt like that and it was only many years later that I truly appreciated the importance of learning about theory too. It is unrealistic for students to expect teacher training to provide the level of practical experience that will be received during their first teaching position.I strongly feel that we have the balance about right in Scotland with half of students’ time in schools and half spent on campus during their initial teacher training. Learning about theory on campus helps students to observe and learn properly in school. If they are not able to link this theory with practice then their teaching skills will not progress since observation of others’ practice is impaired by a lack of understanding about the teachers’ thinking that has taken place behind what they can see.From my experience, class teachers often find it hard to verbalise this thinking to share it with students since so much of what they do has become automatic. I often liken it to teaching someone how to play golf or drive a car just by letting them watch you.
There seems to me to be a major dichotomy in current thinking about the future of teacher training:On the one hand students feel that they only learn when in schools and want to be spoon-fed with tips from teachers on how they do things. HMIe seem to be pushing TEIs towards this with a major emphasis on preparation for Curriculum for Excellence. I was trained when 5-14 was the best thing since sliced bread and got annoyed with my tutors for not telling us how to teach it. Their riposte was that their job was to set us upon a path of lifelong learning and that they were attempting to empower us to be flexible teachers that could adapt to any new curricular changes that would occur in the future. I get it now and they certainly were ahead of their time!We need to be wary of a shift to school-based training where students learn to copy others but don’t have the theoretical underpinning to adapt to new teaching situations which curricular development will ultimately demand of them. Students feel most secure when they are provided with lesson plans and teaching guides but I would argue that this is not the best way for them to learn. My daughter’s primary teacher has a great mantra which she uses to encourage her class when the going gets tough: “difficulty equals learning”. I worry about relying too much upon student evaluations for major course design since what they want now is not what they need to prepare them for the future.On the other hand, the current teacher education review seems to be encouraging a shift towards Masters level courses, from what I’ve read so far. This will require a greater emphasis on the theoretical aspects of teaching and my only concern is that the pendulum may swing too far the other way. We would have to be careful that there was not an even larger gulf between theory and practice than is already perceived by some. Theory that is not seen to be grounded heavily in practice opens TEIs up to the accusation of relying on academics in ‘ivory towers’ who don’t know what life is really like in school.Surely the current balanced approached to teacher training in Scotland means that we have properly acknowledged the importance of both theory and practice? Good teachers cannot rely upon one without the other, in my opinion, and students should be allowed to develop their knowledge and understanding of both during the first year of what should be a lifelong process of teacher development. Hopefully they’ll also be happy to say that they’ve learned something new in every day of their career.
My dream school would definitely be a wonderful place to teach and learn. Perfection would be achieved if it was a five minute walk from my house but located in a different catchment area.
The building would have to have windows that opened in the summer and heating that came on in the winter. If you're a teacher then you'll appreciate that I am imagining a complete fantasy land!
Schools should never be so large that staff don't all know each other by name or where it takes longer than the morning break to reach the staffroom. They should also never be so small that your absence at a staff meeting is immediately apparent either.
It would be located somewhere with a wonderful view. My first post in Dornoch would be hard to beat with one wall full of windows looking out over beautiful Highland countryside and the other overlooking the Dornoch Firth. Nothing tops a seaview for keeping the blood pressure under control.
The school grounds would have to have outdoor teaching spaces. I love teaching Biology outdoors but would appreciate some tables and chairs to facilitate this – preferably with some cover from the rain (though obviously this would be a luxury).
All schools should have a good range of native tree species for teaching use of identification keys plus a pond with plenty of wildlife to sample. Nothing engages pupils better than a spot of pond dipping. There should be some fencing round this though since nothing annoys a parent more than a soaking wet child!
Can you think of anything else that I've forgotten?
Student teachers often ask what they should do if a pupil swears on their first teaching placement. I use the following personal experience to illustrate that you can’t have a hard and fast rule, in my opinion. There is also a huge difference between swearing that is directed at an individual and that caused by frustration. Have a read and see what you’d do.
A former class of mine had several pupils routinely excluded from school for regular misdemeanors. One particular pupil had specific problems with managing his anger and often ended up in Time Out following violent outbursts (in most classes). These outbursts often occurred when the class had been asked to draw graphs. It became obvious that this pupil had an aversion to graphs – verging on a phobia – and he would start to swear under his breath before his anger began to grow, eventually resulting in knocked over chairs etc. This swearing was a useful signal which helped me to know when he was reaching his limit and required immediate intervention. Reacting in a positive way to help this pupil helped him to manage his anger and avoid escalation. He seemed to be almost unaware that he was swearing and was very apologetic for doing so when this was pointed out; one memorable time saying “I’m terribly sorry for the bad language, Mrs Miller. It’s just this f***ing graph!”. Perhaps you think that I was a ‘soft touch’ for letting this go? Many colleagues would have sent him to Time Out preferring a zero tolerance approach to the ‘f’ word. Personally I feel that would have been an over-reaction and counter-productive. He knew that I didn’t approve of swearing, apologised for having done so and, even better, completed his first graph!
Surely this story is no surprise? Certainly makes interesting reading though.
A superior knowledge of science, especially in physics topics, would be beneficial in my chosen line of work, i.e. training school science teachers – however I’ve really got my eye on all of the Doctor’s gadgets.
I’ve always been jealous of the Doctor’s TARDIS. Even though you cannot travel within your own timeline (I think that’s what they said recently to explain why he couldn’t go back and fix things) it would still be extremely useful for travelling to schools for student visits.
My boss may even sanction the requisition order since the potential benefits would be huge, e.g. several visits per day, improved feasibility of multi-campus delivery. Unfortunately it will still not be possible to be in two places at once which would obviously be better for campus timetabling too.
An improved work-life balance would also be within reach since the TARDIS would also facilitate travel to see my parents up North. These trips are not quite possible within a normal weekend when using a regular mode of transport. My boss may let me use my work TARDIS since there would be a knock-on improvement in productivity since I’d have more energy and be much happier during the week. A win-win situation surely!
The most useful special power, in my opinion, for a teacher to be blessed with is super-sensitive hearing. This special power can, if used effectively, mimic super-sensitive eyesight too and is commonly known as ‘eyes-in-the-back-of-your-head’.
It’s always a good idea to really listen hard during lessons and show an ability to hear from a great distance. This ability puts pupils off bullying each other or slagging off teachers (including yourself!) when your back is turned. Ignore whispered comments at your peril; they will only be repeated with greater volume until you react. It’s better to have high standards, in my opinion, especially for behaviour.
When I was a probationer teacher, a girl in my class was hitting another girl with a ruler. As I was about to deal with the situation, the girl that was being hit said that she was going to tell me. “Oh, yeah! I’m so scared! What’s Miss Ross going to do about it?”, I overheard the bully say. I couldn’t think of something suitable to say immediately but she was so shocked at having been caught out that she meekly headed off to see my PT with little prompting.
A good awareness of what is going on in your classroom means that you can head off situations before they get out of hand. One of my favourite techniques, which I copied from a teacher during my probationary period, is the withering stare (closely related to the Paddington stare, for those old enough to remember him) followed by “We don’t do things like that in this school!”. Ridiculously simple, yet highly effective. Thanks, Linda. This even worked when a ruler whistled past my head as a supply teacher covering a History lesson in a notoriously rough school. Phew!!