Tag Archives: teacher training

The Power of Positivity

Thought I would share my article published in a recent UKEDMagazine – enjoy and hope at least one person feels motivated!

In 2014, an eager primary education student was introduced to a brand new world. I was finishing my last year of Initial Teacher Training and I was encouraged to join Twitter to engage with other professionals. What I was welcomed with was a vast horizon of conscientious, inspirational and outstanding practitioners. Unfortunately, I slipped off the radar around the start of my RQT Year due to workload demands but have been back since January 2017.

However, something is different. The mood had changed. There has been a lot of negativity and contention on Twitter. The topics have been wide ranging from philosophies, to phases in education to specific approaches in areas of teaching and learning. Debate is to be expected; personal insults and questioning other professional’s morals is shocking. I want to move away from this mentality – surely we are challenged enough in our day-to-day school lives? How can we expect to draw more teachers into participating with other teachers on Twitter when they arrive they see poor professionalism between a few? The golden question to ask is this – would I say that to a fellow teacher at school?

Face to Face

Positive working relationships in school have, at times, saved my teaching career. In my NQT Year I would often find myself floating in to my KS2 leader’s classroom – not necessarily because I wanted support but just to talk about what had been going on and any advice about any general things that were on my mind. They were so welcoming and those moments where I could reflect (without really realising I was reflecting) made such a difference to me as a teacher. The power of positivity is such a tangible force. Recently I have noticed that when I make the effort to exude positivity, those days tend to go better. Of course this has to come from the top-down: a calm, reassuring Head means a patient, unpressured SLT which means empowered, composed teachers. As well as this, composed teachers tend to lead to more unruffled children.

Of course, not every teacher will emanate positivity. That’s highly unlikely, maybe impossible. The temptation here will be to join in. It’s interesting how two different people can have two very different viewpoints on the same events. I work in such an incredible, forward-thinking school – and yet there are some who still manage to drain the warmth of positive energy. The challenge in this situation will be to continue being sanguine whilst trying to spread the optimism.

Face to Screen (or, Face to Many Faces)

As mentioned, due to the wonders of modern technology, online forums such as Twitter enable a wider audience to absorb other teachers’ positivity. This proved especially important to me in a specific experience.

I was in my NQT Year as a Year 6 teacher and had taken part in a Writing Moderation Meeting cross-school. To save on detail, it did not go well – not necessarily due to poor planning on my part but a couple of issues arose. I went home that evening, my confidence crumpled and tossed in the corner. What came before that day was a series of soul-crushing events, which were now culminating towards the KS2 SATs. As time went on I found myself going through the motions of a class teacher. A week or so later, I found myself on Twitter and found the #NQTchat, something I hadn’t encountered before. I decided to stick around and half an hour later I was enthused! I couldn’t wait to get back into the classroom and shake things up a little. What happened? The power of positivity. I was met with a wall of irresistibly passionate teachers…and it was infectious.

What makes positivity a challenge?

Surely, as we have the best job in the world, being positive should be something that comes natural to all teachers? However, this is not easy. As I was preparing this article, I went into school specifically with a target to stay positive. I went into school excited to begin. However, I found the copying for my lessons that day hadn’t been done. No bother! Then, there was no colour ink in the colour printer. Never mind! After that, I realised someone had taken my guillotine from my classroom and not brought it back. Ok…it’s alright! But I started to see how easily positivity can slip away from a teacher’s clambering grasp as they strive to provide the best education for their eager learners. The trial then is to defy the odds, break the cycle of negativity and realise that you are changing lives.

Positivity Pledge

For any that are struggling to find happiness or comfort in their role as a teacher now, don’t give up. The teaching profession will miss your influence. Hundreds of children will have different lives, they will miss out without your brilliance to greet them each school day. Times will be tough, demands will be great on you – however, there are parents, teachers and children that stand to await you and your positivity. Don’t get drawn into negative arguments on Twitter, don’t think that no one cares about you, many around you want you to succeed. This is why we teach – to make a difference to young people’s lives, and we get to be the one that makes that huge difference every single school day.

After reading this, I do hope that if you feel in any way inspired about the wonderful you have as a teacher – please spread the positivity to at least one other person you work with. You never know the impact on someone’s career you could have – I have had many career-saving influences!

We Asked Nicky… by @Mroberts90Matt

Today I stumbled across an event that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed up until half an hour before it!

A chance to ask questions to and hear instant feedback from the Secretary of State for Education! I’m in! And in I was…

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45 minutes later and what had we learnt? Well, I’ll try to give my rundown of what I learnt – I’m sure many people will have picked out other things so this will not be an exhaustive list:

1. Teacher Recruitment has been recognised as a need

This was helped by the fact that just before this went live, a study was revealed that teacher training applications have dropped by 12%. I think that there are some pretty obvious answers that could be given to go towards solving this issue – all falling under making teaching more appealing or attractive – but at least it has been noted and something will be done to entice and inspire more people to become excellent teachers.

2. Nicky Morgan must not have a clue about the current climate of others’ educational views

When asked why there was not as much educational discussion in the General Election campaigns, we were told that this was probably because there was a lot of agreement on education. I am presuming this was referring to agreement amongst the political parties. I know someone who was running for Parliament for Labour in another region…this was clearly not the case. Labour do not have the same views in education, as far as I am aware with my fairly limited knowledge of politics. That one went past me…

3. Contradictions surrounding teaching as a ‘profession’ and allowing unqualified teachers

One big issue I have with the current government and their policies on education is free schools – and the main thing I have issue with free schools about is the option to employ unqualified teachers. We are being constantly told to raise standards and achievement in schools (and rightly so) but how can this be accomplished if more and more people who are unqualified to teach are teaching the nation’s upcoming generation? Nicky mentioned a few times the need to restore teaching as a profession…this will NOT happen as long as teachers do not need to be qualified – it is a major contradiction!

4. No budging on EBACC

When quizzed about EBACC and allowing the arts to have more weighting in the curriculum, this was pretty much rebuffed – the reason being that Universities are looking for the traditional academic subjects…but as was very well pointed out ‘Not everyone goes to University’. I love Maths, I can really get into English, I am fascinated by Science – but there MUST be an opportunity for a wider range of subject content. Nicky did point out that up until KS3 children should be getting a broad and balanced curriculum and then students can decide to have options in the ‘art’ subjects. Yet – as a Year 6 teacher – I know that even at the end of KS1 and KS2 (because of assessment and data) it is not as broad and balanced as it should be.

Q: Will there be any changes made as a result of this live discussion?

Probably not. I would have loved to see Nicky hear some of the comments given in and sincerely think about what could be done differently to what is currently being done (because some things do need to change) – but I was probably a little naïve for thinking that would happen in this setting. Maybe something said will spark a thought, maybe not – but something that was said promising to hear…

One of Nicky’s self-prescribed appraisal targets is to listen more.

Will this ‘listening’ be a “that’s very interesting, now let me go and do what I was doing before” or a “hmm…that’s an interesting idea, maybe we can work with that”? Hopefully it will be the latter and I for one quite enjoyed the opportunity to hear our Education Secretary speak and voice her side of things, rather than the cynicism that can be down heartening about education.

We will soon see…

Engaging Lessons Solve Behaviour Problems in the Classroom? by @Mroberts90Matt

Early into my second year of Initial Teacher Training we were taking in a session on Behaviour Management. As young teachers who had only delivered a handful of sessions thus far in our development, behaviour management was a looming issue in our inexperienced minds. As such, we came with expectations that we would come away with some valuable tips and ideas on how we could get the little lovelies to behave when we are trying to demonstrate we can piece pedagogy together. Imagine our surprise when the educator informed us that the best way to handle behaviour management was to…make our lessons as engaging as possible!

Now, this post is not to decry the concept that if we engage children more in their learning then behaviour in the classroom will improve. In fact, I do agree with this. However it must be thought through seriously – learning is affected when classroom management is poor (Charles 2002, Evertson, Emmer and and Worsham 2003) and so all possibilities must be considered.

In my short teaching experience, lessons which might be deemed more engaging have indeed had less behaviour management disruptions. Shindler (2009) states that classroom management is founded on how and what we teach, as do other studies. When children are more engaged behaviour can be managed – however that brings up some questions! What is deemed as an ‘engaging lesson’? What might be engaging to one person might not be engaging for another. Also, is it physically possible for a teacher to plan, teach, assess and evaluate a fully engaging lesson in every session that they teach? As a Year 6 teacher drilling (a.k.a. preparing) their pupils for the upcoming SATs, I feel the answer is in the negative. And finally, even with the most engaging lesson, if a teacher does not have a basic grasp on behaviour management techniques, will they never encounter disruptive behaviour in their lessons?…

Therefore, can it really be said that engaging lessons will solve behaviour difficulties? It certainly will reduce the amount of disruption. However, I went away from that University session feeling a bit let down. Since then, I have been to other presentations on behaviour management and, whilst they also have heavily relied on the assumption that behaviour management can be solved by engaging lessons, they have also given useful suggestions. These include:

  • Set, consistent classroom rules
  • Constructive praise
  • Proximinal praise
  • Regular routines
  • Sanctions that are followed through
  • Having an engaging personality with some humour
  • Using technology to assist pedagogy and rule-enforcing (Class Dojo as an example)

These and many more would be useful to have had discussed early on in my training. One of these is proximinal praise which was only introduced to me in one of my NQT observations by my Headteacher. It involves noting the desired behaviour next to a child who is not showing the desired behaviour. Rather than focusing on the negative behaviour it sheds more light on the behaviour expected in the classroom. I have found this to be extremely effective and would encourage any teachers looking for behaviour management tips to try this out in their classroom.

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Behaviour management will always be a topic discussed by leading educators and organisations (for example the recent publication by Ofsted on low-level disruption in the classroom) – therefore it will be necessary for all educators to not only plan more engaging sessions (for that does have an impact on classroom management) but also to develop an inventory of techniques and tools to aid focus and concentration in their learning environments.

References

Charles, C. M., 2002. Elementary Classroom Management. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Evertson, C. M., Emmer, E. M. and Worsham, M. E., 2003. Classroom Management for Secondary Teachers. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Shindler, J., 2009. Transformative Classroom Management. [Online] [14th April 2015] http://web.calstatela.edu/faculty/jshindl/cm/Chapter11pedagogy-final.htm

Initial Teacher Training Grading

Just sat contemplating what result I could receive based on my past assignments and the ones that are currently being marked.

I’ve really enjoyed my course. I feel it has assisted greatly in my development as a teacher and I have no regrets with the choices I’ve made in area of expertise, institution and methods studied.

There is one thing that confuses me though. This may be slightly different in other institutions but the way my University works is that the classification I received is solely based on the academic assignments I’ve done. There is an argument to say: Why is, probably, the most important phase of each year in initial teacher training not taken into consideration; the school based training.

I can safely say that my enthusiasm I have for my chosen career choice sky rocketed in my placements. I was determined it was the right choice already – but the placements fueled that fire. However, the results of those placements will not count one bit to my overall degree classification.

I guess there are a number of reasons for this:

1. The mentor you receive.
Having been in placements where I’ve really relished the advice and guidance my mentor has given, and others where…less so, I understand the factors out of our control here. I personally haven’t had a placement where it’s affected my overall grade but I’ve heard some horror stories from others about placements where they’ve failed because they and their class teacher didn’t ‘get along’. Now of course I’ve only heard the story from the student’s side but even so, it wouldn’t surprise me if it goes on.

2. The school you are placed in
Similar concept to the mentor you receive. Some schools will be better at moulding you as a teacher than others due to the staff, children and leadership there. Not much else to say on that fact!

3. Academic vs. Professional Grades
Ultimately, a University qualification is the result of academic work. The degree classification I receive will be a result of my academic achievements, not my professional success. As I recognise the difference between the two, it makes more sense about the divide between the two. Let’s not forget, future employers will be as interested if not more so about my placements anyway, i’m currently being considered for jobs without a degree classification as that is still pending!

One could look at this and think, is it even that important? I’m not sure. However, I know there’ll be some trainee teachers out there who are great educators, but struggle with the idea of academic writing and will feel short changed if they receive a lower classification, just because they struggled with the style of writing.

Did/does your Initial Teaching Training institution take your placement results into account for your final grade? Is it even that important?