There is a shop near my place of work that I hear so much about and have of yet, not frequented. Its name, ‘Tarts and Tidbits‘ conjures up a wealth of images, although it made me think of today’s Waffle. With trainees about to start their placements I thought I would present my ‘tidbits’ of advice for teaching.
These are in no particular order but would be what I consider to be the starting point of my ethos of education.
- Involve the children – The children are at the centre of our profession, whether this is on an educational level or a pastoral level. When teaching I always want to involve the children (and now the students) as much as I can while they are in my class. By engaging them and involving them in the education journey, they will become part of it and essentially guide the journey. For me, I want the children to be involved at each and every level of the journey – the start (planning) the middle (the activities) and the end (assessment and feedback). I want them to be learning because they want to learn and I want them to feel that the lessons and the activities have been designed for them. This can be a tall order when you are starting your career, but to me it was something that I would always strive for and hopefully achieved to some degree.
- Engage with support staff – I consider any additional adult within the classroom an added support for the children’s learning. I know that I would have not have worked as efficiently without my ‘trusty’ teaching assistant working alongside me. Looking back I hope they always saw it, like I did, as a partnership within the classroom. Engaging with the additional adults in your classroom is a skill and one worth always working at to improve – indeed there actually exists a teaching standard which relates to the involvement of teaching assistants within the classroom. Inviting them contribute within the lessons, asking their opinions, allowing them to choose good pieces of work or children from their group to give answers, are all starting points to promote their involvement. Make sure you give them copies of your plans, keep them informed what is going on and develop that working relationship with them. Also remember that there exists other members of staff who can also be involved in the education of the children. Build positive relationships with the lunch time supervisors, admin managers and caretakers/cleaners. It takes very little of your time to involve these people both in the everyday working of the classroom and the children’s learning and the benefits can be huge.
- From tiny acorns grow mighty oak trees – This quote (and sorry I have no idea where it comes from #referencefail) used to be on our school’s website. Although it applies to education, to me it also applies to the ability to become an outstanding practitioner. Too often, I have seen people start new projects and/or routines which will benefit the children and their own skills but after a short while these stop and disappear. I was guilty of such things in the past – so don’t worry we all live and learn. We often have visions of grandeur about our practice, but we need to remember that outstanding is not just gained over night. Whenever you are starting something new, start off small and slowly build it up, establishing each stage completely before moving on. When the APPs (Assessing Pupils Progress) grids first arrived – practitioners were advised to start off with a group of six children and then after each half term, expand the practice to another group until the whole class was involved. This reflects my thoughts on achieving outstanding practice. Start off with the acorn and then work towards the mighty oak.
- Finish one day before starting the next – This might seem a strange piece of advice but I have learnt the hard way on this one. I always try, even now, to attempt to finish one day at work before starting the next. What I mean by this is that all the marking, displays, follow ups and (now that I work in higher education) the emails from one day are all completed before I either leave the building or start of the next day’s work. At school, I would stay late and get everything sorted and done before leaving. This allowed me to start and work on the next day’s learning with a clear head and also the knowledge of what the children had completed and where they were at in their learning. Achieving this is difficult and I should probably write another blog post on workflow and ways you can work towards managing the workload – not that I am an expert!.
- Know your limits and Stay healthy – There are many books and articles available that talk about ‘Addressing your Work/Life Balance”. There is a school of thought, that I think I do subscribe to, that would consider that our work is part of our life and not something that is an alternative. However, I do agree that work should not take completely over our lives. My last piece of advice would be to know your limits and stay healthy (sorry I squeezed two into one there :)). We all work at different levels and have different commitments. The important piece of advice here is to know when you are working too much and do something about it. Prioritising and accepting are important skills here. By the latter I mean that although you might have a brilliant idea to implement, you may not have the time or the energy to achieve it now. Put it on the ‘to do some day’ list and move on. Don’t forget to eat – healthily! and to keep hydrated with water. Get plenty of sleep (if possible) and if you get a cold, hit the hot blackcurrant and honey. Remember it is only when we are working at our full health that we provide the best possible learning for the children.
Two more then I’ll finish 🙂
So that’s it! The end of my short ‘father figure’ advice for teaching :). If you have any key advice you would give to people about teaching then check out how you can be featured in the next comments show here.
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Have fun and catch you later!