21 December 2013

...Managing Pressure

Every year, since I began teaching, I've found the approaching winter break brings as much pressure as it does festivity. In fact, I've not once experienced a 'winding down' toward the end of a term. Instead, I tend to feel particularly wound up. Well, this post is concerned with professional pressure, whenever it occurs - and how to manage it.

17 December 2013

...Interview Strategy

We held UEL's Recruitment Fair yesterday. The day was organised to provide trainee teachers with all the information they needed to secure an NQT post by the end of their PGCE/School Direct programme. Having interviewed many candidates for training places and teaching posts, I was asked to contribute to a session entitled 'Answering Interview Questions'. This post shares a summary of the guidance I gave, a copy of the presentation I displayed (using Prezi), and a video I used to emphasize the need for decent preparation.

Rather than just dwelling on the questions that potential employers were likely to ask, I decided to discuss the interview process in broader terms and to provide trainees with a strategy for success. Apologies if some of the advice seems fairly obvious, but I've seen first hand the effect that a lack of forward planning can have on interview day... Get to work!

08 December 2013

...Beating Stress

Photograph: Alamy
It's the nature of the job, isn't it? Inspections, ever-increasing expectations, and so many tasks to juggle, including planning, assessment, reporting and resourcing... The pressures on teachers, which seem relentless at times, amount to a genuine occupational hazard.

The pressures of the PGCE in particular are widely recognised. The learning curve is very steep for most trainees. The regular observations of your teaching practice, and the need for getting to grips with the necessary theory, subject knowledge, tasks and assignments make for a highly demanding 11 months. Current fee arrangements serve to add an unfortunate level of jeopardy for many.

It is with this in mind that Nane Steinhoff's blog in The Guardian caught my eye. Now, I know that dealing with stress is far from simple, and that a handy list of prompts is unlikely to be of any help for sufferers with acute symptoms. But, I shared the blog with a small group of trainees and it seemed to resonate. So, here it is - reblogged:

06 December 2013

...Podcasting for Learning (PfL)

Last night I headed to Hackney Community College, to attend the TechCity TeachMeet. The remit was 'share your A-Z Tech Toolkit that has worked for you in 2013, & what tech you plan to use in 2014.' I decided to renew my interest in using audio and podcasting by sharing my initial, tentative use of Soundcloud as a learning tool. I shall mention a number of ways in which podcasting can support learning, and at the end of this blog I'll share my 5 intended actions for the new year. 

04 December 2013

...Critical Incidents

This post discusses David Tripp's approaches to the analysis of incidents, and how the practice he describes can help teachers to develop their professional judgement. I'll start off by describing what we mean by critical incidents, and why they matter. I'll then share my understanding of Tripp's main strategies for effectively analysing our experiences. Hopefully I will help you to understand and employ the approaches, to broaden your professional awareness of the complex and sometimes emotionally charged events which occur in your school.

First of all, let's determine what a critical incident is not. Imagine you are undertaking a cold January playground duty, shuffling from foot to frozen foot. You hear a sudden shout from behind the emergency exit, and the head teacher falls headfirst into the playground. She slides a good 12 feet across the ice forming beneath the leaking water fountain, before bowling over a group of children from class 3b... 'What a critical incident!' you cry. Except it's not. Not by Tripp's definition, at least...

01 December 2013

...Demo Lessons

I have written this post with pre-service trainee teachers in mind... Naturally, a key consideration for you during your training is likely to be one of securing a job (and a salary) by the end of it. However, as one might expect, many head teachers are reluctant to recruit new staff without first seeing them teach.

And rightly so. Recruitment itself takes time and money. And the stakes are high for school leaders for whom the quality of teaching is usually a prime concern.

Also, teaching is a complex, dynamic profession. It requires intelligent, flexible, responsive individuals to make effective use of a range of strategies for ensuring that the pupils in their classes make progress. By observing you teach a lesson, and witnessing your practical abilities, a potential employer is in a much stronger position to confidently make you a job offer.

08 November 2013

...Writing to Learn

This post aims to share my growing awareness of the value of writing as a reflective learning tool. I start by sharing my own early experiences and my feelings about writing. Then I briefly discuss a current view of reflective professional practice, before sharing the importance of self-reflection and 'writing to learn' - particularly for those of you working in a professional field.

I've never been one who keeps an up-to-date, intimately detailed diary of my life. And that's despite a number of genuine attempts to commit to doing so over the years. My failure has not been because I have nothing to say, or because the intimate details might be too gruesome, provocative or felonious... It's simply this: I find that writing is hard work. 

When I was at school, I found that having to communicate my knowledge by writing an essay was an unnecessarily tortuous process, which did little justice to my true understanding of a subject. But whether, like me, you find it hard, or if you write so prolifically that you're visiting Paperchase for a new journal every month, harnessing the writing process in a deliberate, critically reflective way can help you to make sense of the complex situations you encounter from time to time. 

24 May 2013

...Positive Behaviour Management

Why does 'positive' management of pupils' behaviour matter? Well, by its very definition, it suggests clarity and confidence - both necessary attributes for successful teaching. However, taking a positive approach also helps us to sustain a classroom environment in which pupils feel safe and respected, and which is conducive to learning.

To promote positive behaviour, we should adhere to some well-documented key principles. (Indeed, my own posts include discussions about establishing rules and routines, and maintaining a learning climate.) But I believe that by adopting a positive mindset, and using consistently positive language, we can have a significant  and long-term impact on a class's learning behaviour.

17 May 2013

...Classroom Climate

Bill Rogers describes different 'phases' in the development of a positive classroom climate. In this post I summarise aspects of each phase, and provide a checklist of practical considerations to help teachers build a positive, sustainable learning environment.

09 May 2013

...Reflective Practice

Reflective practice is a well-documented approach to learning, which can help professionals understand and deal with the complex and dynamic nature of their experiences. However there is a crucial distinction to be made between, let me call it 'learning from experience' and reflective practice. This difference can often be missed by those new to reflective practices or those engaging in it, as part of a mandatory learning programme, for example. But before I address that, let me take a moment to share the experts' words on the subject of reflective practice - a little nod to the theory...

06 May 2013

...Don't Smile Till Christmas

The 'establishment phase' of the school year is crucial for setting behavioural expectations for pupils. It is the time at which teachers introduce and embed the systems and routines we will be using for the rest of the year. Certainly older pupils, and students in FE and HE, expect us to discuss rules for learning and behaviour with them, in order to establish a shared, communal understanding of how the classroom environment will operate effectively. Within the context of teaching and learning, the aim is to enable groups and individuals to:
  • own/be accountable for their behaviour
  • respect others' rights, feelings and needs
  • build workable relationships (Rogers, 2011).
So, from the first day with a new class (whether at the start of the year, term, or training placement) employing consistent and positive behaviour management strategies firmly and fairly is essential to allow effective learning to take place. Indeed, it has been suggested that pupils form enduring judgments about their teacher's effectiveness in the first minutes of meeting them, highlighting the significance of our actions at this time. 

04 May 2013


Working TogetherI recall being taught how to 'collaborate' an interactive whiteboard. The trainer was actually demonstrating calibration, and was clearly unaware of her error. But although little collaboration occurred that day I learned a great deal.

I facilitate collaboration as part of my job, often setting activities which I believe depend on team-work for success. However, I found myself questioning its value during some digital media sessions I ran last week, for trainee teachers on the PGCE.

29 April 2013


I frequently come across heated online discussions about how to make the best use of technology in the classroom. Recent themes include:
How to get the best use out of an interactive whiteboard
The impact of introducing tablets into schools, and
All children in all schools must blog, because...