The first couple of terms are potentially overwhelming for trainee teachers. Because our SCITT students are approaching their dreaded first formal lesson observation, I trawled through my i tunes library (wife and daughter had control of the TV and I couldn’t cope with the high-brow Just Tattoo of Us) to see if it offered any inspiration for them regarding the key things to prioritise. It did, and I’m delighted to report that the inspiration came from some of my favourite artists:
- Weather With You- Crowded House
The classroom is your space, so set the climate. The climate I refer to is one of high expectations. Most pupils are desperate to meet the expectations of their teacher, so set these expectations high.
- Show You the Way to Go – Jacksons
The Jacksons’ only number one? Surely not. They went to the effort of visiting every kind of disco on a night in Frisco and still couldn’t get Blame it on the Boogie to the top spot? Sad but true. Anyway, the reference is to “show”. If you want pupils to learn a skill, show them the way to do it, then show them different ways to do it. Show them how to write, to read, to talk, to think, to love learning.
- Talk – Coldplay
If they can’t say it, they can’t write it. Plan talk activities to develop the comprehension skills and rich vocabulary pupils need for reading and writing. Make sure they listen well so they don’t miss out on all the words they could learn.
- Enjoy the Silence- Depeche Mode
Once high-quality talk is part and parcel of every day, set protocols for different types of activity. Take a look at my talk dial on www.mcmlearning.co.uk . 26 years in the classroom have taught me that having worked on words together, practised skills in groups, discussed ideas and possibilities, young minds need quietness to write well. Try playing background music and be hard on “idle-chatter” – this is a habit which will limit their achievements in the long run.
- With a Little Help from my Friends – The Beatles
I’m not sure “getting high with a little help from my friends” will go down well with the Safeguarding Governor but “getting by with a little help with our friends” surely will. You can’t be everywhere, so teach pupils to work productively and learn from each other in pairs and groups. Teach them how to question well; teach them strategies that enable them to work things out if they’re not sure; have resources on display and on tables which support independent learning.
- Born of Frustration – James
Poor behaviour is probably born of frustration about a lack of confidence. It becomes a cloak beneath which pupils cower when insecurities about reading, writing or Maths surface. Your first port of call should be to teaching and learning: could the lessons be better differentiated, more challenging or more engaging, and if they could, how would behaviour improve? Something, that the data we are so obsessed by doesn’t report, is that not all kids have been lucky enough to have had the same opportunities. Level the playing field and make sure everyone gets opportunities to broaden their horizon – especially the “naughty” ones.
- Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads
Grammar worksheets; somebody else’s old planning on the shared area; mediocre texts; whole-class spelling tests (I know someone who does good spelling training 😊). These are all a road to nowhere – so don’t use them.
- Think for Yourself – The Beatles
There’s a lot of content to cover and sometimes this means that opportunities to think get squeezed out. Teach thinking. Assess thinking. Plan thinking. Visit www.thinkingschoolsinternational.com for ideas and resources and let me know if you’d like to join the network.
- Happiness- Ken Dodd
Teaching is tough. Most people have no idea how tough or the type of challenges teachers face. The parents can be the biggest challenge. Don’t let them get you down. You deserve to be happy at work. So, don’t waste time with the “mood Hoover” in the corner of the staffroom; don’t neglect your social life; invest in team-building – because teaching is a team game. Make your classroom a happy place: fill it with laughter and music. Golden time shouldn’t be “anything that keeps them quiet” or just “Go on the computer” (that’s the last thing they need more of) – get the pupils into the fresh air, get them playing board games, get them making, drawing, painting and baking. When you’re a school leader – and this will be sooner than you realise – make your school a happy place to work. Occasionally, I work in schools which feel unhappy and I reflect that it’s little wonder that they can’t recruit or retain a stable staff team.
- There is a Light That Never Goes Out -The Smiths
I bumped into a former pupil in Camden. She and I were sometimes at loggerheads during the 3 years she was in my tutor group. I could have taken the easy route and tolerated her lateness, disruptive behaviour, no academic progress, abusive language. After all, there were nights when she slept rough on the concrete beside the water tank in the top floor of her tower block. One morning, she dragged herself to school after her drunken father had punished her by dangling her, headfirst, out of their 11th floor window. I think she needed the stability of the school day, its structure and rules – and teachers who wouldn’t take the easy route. She completed school, got some GCSEs and, on that day in Camden, she thanked and hugged me. There is a light that never goes out.
The Ones that got away
Sit Down – James
If only James had called this Sit Down (Shut Up and Get on with Your Work). But that would be inappropriate, immature and not funny. So it has no place in my blog.
Accidents Will Happen – Elvis Costello
They will. Have a bucket, gloves and a facemask at the ready. And watch out for hungover staff after a staff party.
Where Will the Children Play? – Cat Stevens
Cat’s political comment on the selling off of our school playing fields. Vote Green Party.
Schools Out for Summer – Alice Cooper
The summer holiday is for planning and preparation, Alice. And that’s not even your real name.
Slippery When Wet – Bon Jovi
Jon Bon Jovi’s poignant reminder of the dangers of a wet playground. Stay safe. Stay inside.
If you are lucky enough to share my music taste (How could you resist Ken Dodd?), the playlist can be downloaded at https://itunes.apple.com/gb/playlist/teaching-tips-top-10/idpl.u-PDb40JgT7jrLL