Behaviour Management in LLS Recommended Text

download (2)I can not recommend Managing Behaviour in Further and Adult Education by Susan Wallace enough as an essential read for anyone working in the LLS or training there or heading there in the future.

I love the easy writing style, the use of case studies which will be all too familiar to many NQT’s and PGCE placement students who are in FE in particular but also in HE.

It puts to bed the myths that students in LLS are there because they choose to be and as such will be model students, impeccably behaved and reasonable… crikey I was in a class of trainee teachers many with recent BA degrees under their belt who didn’t know how to turn up on time, stop giggling, keep on task, prevent themselves from doodling and chattering during lessons, presentations and guest speaks. If people who are trying to manage behaviour in classrooms as teachers can’t behave when they are students then there is no class out there which is immune from behaviour management issues.

As it’s titling suggests also prepare for gaining QTLS (if we figure out what is happening with that) so if that’s where you are heading and it probably is then it’s even more essential.

This is the most up to date version of this book and is available here from Amazon at around £11 plus p&p, £17.50 for the Kindle version and around £15.00 if you buy through Prime. The second edition is available here for less on Amazon and if you are really strapped for cash it’s still a useful purchase. Don’t be put off by the slightly different title it is still the previous version of this book. I have both and either are really useful but of course the updated version does have some useful updates relevant to changes in the sector. I’m not sure if it’s available in the Kindle library to Prime members for a free hire I’ve not checked but it’s one you will want to keep in my opinion anyway so for a reasonable text book price and for one that isn’t massive and hefty that you can stick in your bag and read in bed without danger of caving your face in if it slips from your hands it’s a good investment.


Thoughts on Educating the East End Episode 4

This is going to short and sweet. I always thought that exclusion was pointless, unnecessary and detrimental to the development of a child, but after watching last night I’m of a different opinion. It was clearly a difficult decision, there was nowhere left to go with discipline, other children were going to suffer and I am sure there was far, far more to the story than we saw out of respect for the child and his family. It was easy to forget that Jebb was introduced as a boy who had been excluded from another school previously as his dimpled cute smiling face touched our hearts and his plight and obvious struggles with coping with his parents’ divorce brought tears to our eyes. I felt deflated when he was excluded and couldn’t help but think that he was bound to become a statistic, a failure and then I was delighted to see that he is doing well, that the actions taken were right for him, they worked, he’s happy and thriving.

These programmes are never going to give us the whole picture but I think this is one of the reasons this team win awards, they take us on a realistic journey and they lead us to make assumptions and then they turn all that on its head, they challenge the way we think and our haste in making judgements.

Well done on another fabulous episode.

Safeguarding – Using Social Media to Keep Up to Date

As part of the PGCE course I did we had to do a course on Safeguarding which was a quick online thing at the very beginning of the course, it might even have been part of the first couple of day’s essentials such as getting signed up for a teacher’s account on university and placement’s systems. Whatever it was it was something easy to forget about in the mind assault that is often present in the first few days of any course or anything new.

I don’t remember revisiting Safeguarding as part of the course, I do recall writing about it out of choice in one of the assignments where it seemed to ‘fit’ and as a consequence I did much wider reading on the issues and legislation and I was glad of the prompt. Like most things teaching or socially related I became aware of the rapid and apparently constant developments and changes which take place in this area particularly with regard to guidance and policy. It’s another area of professionalism which I felt was going to be a nightmare to stay abreast of.

Ultimately I satisfied myself that it might just do to know about the basic processes and responsibilities and current relevant legislation and revisit this now and then. I also thought it would be useful to follow some useful sites on social media and subscribe to updates from relevant organisations. This way updates and relevant news would be pinged out to me along with other teaching or specialist subject related information. Praise be for social media, how anyone stayed on top of all this in the dark days before it I have no idea. It’s so much easier to have updates fed to you rather than having to go search for them.

I’d advise something here and that is when you see something really useful or interesting which you know you will need in the future or might need, blog about it. It’s one of the best ways of keeping a record of things you find interesting or useful and much easier to sift through than the endless lists of bookmarked favourites you will accumulate and far easier than trying to rummage through endless tweets for that one piece of information you really could use now. It also enables you to share with your network. You only need do a quick post and you can include a whole bunch of links to revisit in the future. You can save as  a draft, there’s no need to publish immediately or ever but it’s there when you have time to devote or towards the end of your course when you realise you need to evidence upkeep of a blog. June is a crazy month for blogging when PGCE students realise it was something they should have been doing all along and which they are now going to have to evidence to pass the course. It’s a shame more don’t make use of it and see the value of it during the course but it will happen, younger people are really taking up blogging now so we’ll eventually be as hot on it as the Aussies and Americans.

I use Pinterest too, I tend to use it more for graphics and visuals which might be useful to refer to for essay writing or for lesson planning or which I might want to put into blog posts in the future. It just helps to sort and consolidate information in a world where there is tons of it to access and so much of relevance.

There is A LOT to keep up with and careful selection of who you are going to follow on Twitter or Facebook or register with for alerts is really crucial. It saves so much time searching too and believe me the further you get into your placement and course the more you will value saving time. Making sure of the quality of the sites you subscribe to or follow is important, go for government bodies where you can or their quangos. Ofsted is always a good one to go for and don’t forget your local authority too.

I’d say that unless you want to study safeguarding in more depth it would suffice to get to grips with the basics on your course but make yourself familiar with local policies and procedures on placement and again when you start your first job and do use social media for policy updates. If you do have space and time to fit in some more in depth study do so, it will be very useful to you. If there is anyone on your PGCE course who has greater knowledge and insight into this area than you have a chat with them to be pointed in the direction of some useful material. I was lucky that on my course we had an Early Year’s practitioner who shared lots of useful information with us.

This NSPCC website is full of useful information in easy to read formats with good reference links if you are interested in having some summaries of information and direction to further reference-able academic reading.

Literacy Matters

I loved this article published in TES magazine and online last week by Sarah Simons entitled A Closed Book.

In it Sarah talks about being well read as in having a library full of classics. It got me thinking, as I’ve thought and blogged about before, that maybe it is time to go back to the way they taught English ‘in my day’ – Oh gosh can’t believe I say that more and more.

When we had CSE’s and GCE O’Levels it worked like this – CSE students studied English which we would now call literacy, they had to do some spoken communication assessment and written work which was more about understanding things which are written down and being able to write things down themselves. Students left with CSE’s in English (unless they were dyslexic which nobody had discovered at my school back then). This certificate evidenced that they were literate, they could read, write, regurgitate and comprehend information from a variety of sources including books, magazines, newspaper articles and letters.

The higher level GCE O’Level students studied English and English Literature as two separate qualifications. English required no spoken communication but required a higher level of literacy, higher levels of grammar, better use of descriptive language an ability to precis or summarise factual information and an ability to understand what they had read. The literature qualification called for them to be able to read whole books (yes in our day we read the whole thing not a shortened version and we didn’t get ‘easy’ translated Shakespeare either, we had the olde English versions or nothing), understand and discuss poems, understand symbolism, imagery, plot and character development. Most of my O’Level English class I am still in touch with and most of them have a high level of literacy to date and all have a deep love of literature, especially the classics and fond memories of classes. We had an awesome teacher and we had the capacity to be stretched in that way, maybe that impacted on us.

The CSE students didn’t. Maybe if we’d researched our class we’d have found that the O’level kids had more access to literature at home, had parents who loved to read (certainly true in my case), had parents who enjoyed listening to them read and that was the reason they enjoyed and excelled at literature. Literature undoubtedly demonstrated perfect English which was then backing up what had been taught in the English Language class. Language took priority with 4 lessons a week and Literature had only 2 but we got through some content in 2 years.

It worked. If standards of literacy have declined since the changes, then it worked. Why did we change it? It wasn’t perfect and maybe that’s why but then as I’ve already mentioned we didn’t have dyslexia diagnosis back then, kids who were going hungry or being abused didn’t have the support they have now, how many of those kids who struggled at CSE level were dyslexic, un-diagnosed, unsupported academically through unidentified need or socially and bound to fail? So many of the peripheral obstacles to learning have since been addressed which may have skewed the stats back in the 80’s when the changes were made. Maybe it’s time for a revisit.

Instead what we have now is the GCSE, a watered down mix of the three, the CSE, English Language O’Level and English Literature O’Level and some kids fly with it and others struggle and it is a battle ground because so much hinges on it, along with Maths of course but then arguably being able to read and write and understand what you have read and written is of more importance in every day living than being able to perform algebraic functions (maths is another story).

I agree with what Sarah says in the article and believe our reading should be relevant. Some of us love to read novels, we find it easy to sustain long periods of reading, we retain what we’ve read, we find it easy to sink into a world created for us in the pages of a book. Other’s like Sarah herself said in a tweeted conversation have withdrawal symptoms if they can’t read The Guardian every day yet haven’t read any of the great classics and don’t have a huge literary repertoire to call on but she hasn’t needed one. She writes, she reads, she absorbs information, she comprehends it and regurgitates it, people read it, she’s published by one of the most respected teaching publications in the world. Would reading James Joyce’s Dubliners make that much of a difference to her life? Other than being able to quote it when a kind of literary snobbishness required it?

I know this is very simplified, I know as an avid reader of classics, trashy beach novels and other forms of media including shampoo bottles and as a writer myself that I have had my life enriched by what I’ve read BUT I don’t think everyone has to have that experience if that’s not what they want, if it doesn’t suit them or they don’t need it.

I feel sad that my kids never got to study some of our literary gems and so we read them together as a family to ensure they get that experience but the one size fits all approach is letting students at both ends down. It’s too preoccupied on the one hand with things that just don’t matter as much as learning to read, write and comprehend and not occupied enough on the other hand with stretching the minds of those who are more suited to leaping into a great literary work of art.

Sad but true, the typical profile of a barely literate student does not fit with one who would be encouraged and supported at home in the same way those at the top end might typically be supported with reading of the classics that they may miss out on at school. Lower achieving students are less likely to have support networks which sit and pick up at home where school left them behind with the basics and so we need to be making sure that their teaching and the qualification they are trying to achieve is relevant to them and the language skills they leave school with are relevant to what they will be doing next.

The standard of literacy that comes through to FE is frankly shocking at times, I am sure I was doing better than that at junior school, maybe we’re just asking too much of kids and in doing so failing them rather than helping them. Rather than expecting functional skills teachers to teach GCSE perhaps we should be looking at the functional skills model as the better option, as Sarah describes it is more relevant and flexible to learners. Sometimes we move the bar up when we want to improve standards when really it needs to be moved down to achieve the same desired outcomes.

E&D – discrimination doesn’t have to be blatant to be felt

This post has took time to write or rather to make it to publication. I have given much thought to the usefulness or value of it weighed against anyone who it strikes a chord with and I decided, you know what, I’m going to take a risk with my content (see the quote from Creme 2010 above) and I’m going to put this out there. I’ve heard these things, I’ve been affected by these things and I’m going to lay them out there bare and let people have a look and a think and perhaps even comment. Maybe it will help student teachers to understand E&D issues just a tiny bit better, to avoid causing offence to others and to think twice before making assumptions about the students in front of them. These are some of the more subtle examples I’ve drawn out of the folder of unbelievably and perhaps unwittingly offensive things I have heard.

download (1)I have avoided this topic in my blog because I know that whenever it comes up and I give my view point I’m seen as being ‘over sensitive’.  I’m over sensitive because I have black children. It makes us laugh, myself, my kids and their dad, to think that people feel I’m over sensitive to issues of inequality because I have black kids. The fact that they don’t reason that I have black kids because I judge people on merit not skin colour or nationality, ability or age, gender or sexuality evades them. The kids came first and I sure as hell didn’t produce them from my lily white flesh on my own. But no, I’m sensitive because I have black children. Think about that in itself and what it says about people who think that, do you imagine that could be offensive in itself? Too right it is. It’s like saying a parent can’t really give an objective opinion on child abuse because they are parents… what so people who don’t have children find these things less emotive? If they do, shame on them, but I don’t think we believe that this is the case, yet I’ve been told to my face more times than I remember that I’m sensitive to issues of racial discrimination because of my children. Like I didn’t care about it before then. It’s rude, it’s wrong, it’s unfair and get this… it’s discriminatory in itself.

We laugh my family and I as an alternative to crying because we know that this perception speaks volumes, it’s already told us something we don’t want to believe, not still, not in 2014, surely.

We laugh because the children are also told during E&D classes and discussions that they are ‘over sensitive’ because they are black/brown/mixed or whatever they are categorised as, I’d just love to get to the day when they are simply ‘children’ but sadly we missed that boat because one of them is already an adult, we’ve got a couple of years left before the youngest is an adult too and sadly I don’t think we’ll get there before then.

We have to laugh because there isn’t much else we can do other than keep sharing our opinion and keep being good people and hoping that one day everyone believes that we feel the way we do because we do not like discrimination on any grounds. We have opinions because we have insight that we are proud and privileged to have. Our humanity extends beyond feeling pained at racist issues, believe it or not we actually care about children, old people, disabled people, mentally ill people, people of other faiths and a whole lot more too being treated fairly and justly. We protest against discrimination both on a personal and institutionalised level, not just racism because the kids are black.

I’m just putting these things out there, things I’ve heard and seen and I ask you to just think about them. What is or could be wrong about them, would you challenge them, would you be offended, would you care? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

“For God’s sake, why are all E&D speakers black?” (Trainee teacher at E&D lecture)

“Some people can’t understand English too well can they? Are you alright following what I’m saying?” the lecturer mouthed loudly to the three guys at the back, the two with the Arabic names and the Russian. The class laughed uncomfortably knowing one was English born and bred, one had lived here for more years than he’d lived anywhere else and for the other English was one of a couple of his country’s official languages. (In an HE lecture on customer communications)

“Why do black people need black role models? I’m white and I’ve got a couple of black role models, why can’t they just  have white ones?” (Trainee teacher back in class after an E&D guest speak lecture)

“Could you please stand back and wait” a delegate shouted to a hoard of other delegates as they  near trampled the imagesembarrassed lady trying to turn in her wheelchair. (Witnessed at a teaching conference following an E&D lecture)

“Don’t worry about him, leave him in the corner and ignore him, there’s a language barrier”. (Teacher to teacher about student)

“OK so how do we get the service users up to the top floor conference room? Where’s the lift?” “There isn’t one, they’ll have to walk up 8 flights of stairs”. (Conversation between chair of older people’s conference and event organisers)

“What’s he doing here? He was supposed to be on a boat back to China.” (Teacher to class about fellow student)

“Idiot FE students” (Trainee teacher on social media site)

I announced I was going to the shop for some drinks, it was a really hot day and we’d worked hard relocating the QA Department across the city and keeping it operational. The young porter who had been able to lift full filing cabinets into place had been instrumental in it happening and he had worked tirelessly. He sat sweating in a corner having  hauled how many kgs around against H&S regs I can only imagine. I came back and handed him a diet coke he thanked me. My colleague took me to one side “Don’t give him a drink, he’s only a porter, he does this donkey work because his kind can’t do anything else”. “Oh you mean his kind as in law students earning some money to get them through final year of university, or his kind as in huge black guys?” I asked. Oh and I didn’t have children at the time so couldn’t possibly have been seen as over sensitive when I reported her inappropriate and offensive comments to her manager.

“WHAT.IS.YOUR.STUDENT.NUMBER?” (receptionist yelling to British student of Asian parentage in a university)

“Well let the Nigerian die as it will save the country money on benefits” (HE student’s first thoughts when confronted with a management exercise which contained no information to indicate the guy lived anywhere other than Nigeria but did inform that he was well educated, employed and of a high social standing)

“The display is ready to go to the cultural centre” I was told by my colleague I looked at it, yards and yards of beautifully compiled work and images on 7 foot high notice boards. “Everyone on the pictures is white” I said “in fact, everyone on the pictures is white and a man” I added. “Oh it doesn’t matter now, we don’t get many foreigners at these things anyway” my colleague responded. “You’re so fussy about this stuff, do you think it’s because of your kids?”. I breathed deeply and counted to ten.

“I couldn’t complete the enrollment process because I had an argument with the administrator who said that because I noted my ethnicity as Anglo African on my form I couldn’t state my nationality as British, I tried to explain that my parents are British, I’m British, I showed her my passport, my driving licence and birth certificate but she just didn’t get it, I got so frustrated with her I left” (student trying to enrol on a university course).

“I’m giving this one a miss aren’t you? I mean, it’s bad enough having to work with him without having to have an image of him sleeping with his partner in my head” (Colleague of a gay man who had offered to host that month’s staff social event)

I’m English, I’m white, I’m not disabled, I’m young (ish), I speak English perfectly well, I’m heterosexual, I didn’t come here ‘on a boat’, but I’m sensitive to all of this, well not just sensitive but OVER sensitive to it, and why? Oh did I mention I found two black kids? Maybe that explains it.

Correction, I’m sensitive to it because it is wrong, all of it is wrong, very subtle but wrong and I could bring up hundreds more blatantly obvious comments but I want to show the subtlety, I want to show how words can cause offence and offence causes alienation and if they can do it to a hardened time served battle axe like me who understands that some people are ignorant, imagine what they can do to a child, a young impressionable person who wants to just be who they are and accepted for that and who doesn’t want to be singled out on any characteristic.

This is how used to it I am, some people reading this will think this has all been about race, they’ve already forgotten or didn’t even notice the gender discrimination, they’ve forgotten the discrimination based on language, the disability examples, the age discrimination and the discrimination based on status and don’t even start me on the stereotyping that was going on.

An earlier post of mine contains a TED talk which says that children do not learn from people they do not like and I’d take that a step further and say they do not learn from people who do not like them. But it’s not just about offending us sensitive folk, it’s much worse than that. It’s worse because much of this comes from educators and we know what educators do, they teach people and if they don’t realise that what they are saying is wrong and offensive, or simply very narrow minded. If we all just breathe and count to ten instead of challenging that behaviour then there is a great danger that they will teach those people attitudes like theirs and it will never end.

As teachers we are responsible for so much. What we make OK, our students see as OK. We are doing them a disservice when they go out into the world and find that OK is actually not OK at all.

Educating the East End Episode 3

I loved this episode. I was struck by a couple of things and that is how this one seemed to show much better behaved, driven, involved and inspired kids who realised the importance of education and the added extras. I felt this was far more representative of young people in the main, or at least the young people I’m used to.

I loved the elections, the campaigning, the obvious camaraderie and support throughout the school, the barrier relaxing between students and teachers, all of it was inspirational. As a teacher who has shifted from FE to Secondary I was able to relate so much easier to this and I think it is true that they began the series with the difficult year 9 which consensus has it is the toughest year as mentioned in my first post on this series.

I was also interested to see how it was noticed that things going on outside of school were affecting the outgoing head girl’s performance and how it was nipped in the bud and ultimately did not affect her achievements at GCSE. I felt it was interesting to see the focus on developing her self belief and I felt educated myself by the head teacher’s comments on exam performance being largely due to a mental attitude. I’ve seen people filled with fear and negativity prior to an exam and have wondered how they can do that to themselves, believing that negative mind set can’t be productive but for some people positivity and self belief doesn’t come easy and that’s something to bear in mind now as a teacher. I don’t think I’m bigging myself up too much to say that I’m pretty good at encouraging students to have faith in themselves but I saw it more in action on the programme and feel that I understand the importance even more now of building that positivity. Some people do not have it instilled in them by parents or anyone else in their life, even society may have a low expectation or give out signs that trying is pointless and we as teachers do have to fight against that.

We were shocked that nobody seemed to know who the eventual election victor was. I guess that’s because he was under the radar, probably well behaved, always on time, good attendance and a high achiever. Nobody’s noticed him because he hasn’t given anyone reason to and in some ways I think that’s very sad. Imagine if he had never stood for election, he would possibly have passed right through secondary school with nobody ever noticing him.

I see how easy it is for deserving students to be bypassed on awards events and for opportunities to represent the school and for treats and rewards and while I get it now as a teacher that the challenging students take up the lion’s share of your time and focus, it’s really not fair. It’s made me want to make an even more concerted effort to make sure I notice the other students, not just the high achievers but the middling, average students who come in, sit down, get on with their work, achieve comfortably and leave. I know who they are in my current classes and I know who they were in my placement classes and I have to hold my hands up and admit that in my placement classes they were the ones I took longest to remember the names of, the ones I engaged with the least and the ones I should have recognised more.

As a student teacher you will soon realise that it really is the challenging students who you remember first and you will be shocked when you reflect and consider the amount of time you spent talking directly to them (another reason why reflection is important). You have to be careful of that, some ‘disruptive’ students just crave attention and they are very skilled at commanding it.  In one of my observations my university tutor advised me to ignore any behaviours which were not threatening or affecting anyone else. As an example in the observed class one of my students decided to make a paper plane and I asked why he had done that and I should have just ignored it, nobody else had noticed he had made it, it wasn’t detracting from the overall flow of the lesson and I brought everyone’s focus to the paper plane and thereby I caused the class to become distracted from the lesson and of course myself. Later on he wrapped toilet paper around himself and again I mentioned it and created the conflict situation the student wanted when again I could have just ignored it.

So lesson learned, less time on the attention seekers and more of acknowledgement of the under the radar, safe kids, they might not crave attention but everyone likes to be noticed for something they’re doing well and to have some attention now and again, I’d hate to think a student of mine would put himself up for an election and I wouldn’t know who he was but am aware of how easily it could happen.

Looking forward to the  next episode.


So it’s not long off a year since I started this blog and in that time it has attracted hundreds of followers from Twitter as well as those who follow directly and I’ve not really courted followers like I do on my monetised blogs so this is really good. Over 3,800 viewers, 378 followers and 165 posts and tons of comments private and published which have led me to some exciting places, fascinating people and wonderful experiences.

I’m going to celebrate by trying to write my requested warts and all reflection of my whole PGCE experience both placement and taught course. I’m a bit busy these days but I’m going to try to cobble it together bit by bit and I think it’s time I told my story. It didn’t start off too good placement wise but improved beyond my dreams and I loved the experience. My academic journey was kind of the reverse I loved it at first and came to wish it over at the end but now am still enjoying carrying it on with reading and blogging, developing and learning as a teacher never ends and it’s a privilege to have been set off on a good track.

The PGCE teaches you what you have to carry on doing, it’s not the end, it’s the beginning. There was an academic glitch when I was so unhappy on placement that I lost the will to live with the whole thing but thankfully I picked myself up and dusted myself off and made this journey about me not about those who whisper in ears to detract from the goal. Being a teacher is about continuously learning, reflecting, developing, reading, being aware of the changing landscape and not just about what happens in the classroom. If you’ve got the knack in the classroom you can teach anything at any time to anybody I firmly believe that but it takes some dedication to keep on growing as a professional, to keep on top of technology, cultural, societal, economic and political shifts in the education sector.

So my insight to my experience will be coming just as soon as I get time to write it but until then know that no matter how bad it gets there is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s up to you to make your placement and your whole course what you want it to be. You get one shot at this don’t let anyone put you off, you wanted to be a teacher when you started don’t stop until you are one. If you’re lucky you get a smooth ride, if you’re luckier you get to ride the roller coaster and learn more about yourself and the profession than you ever imagined.