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.


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.


I came across this TES article today via Twitter, Leadership – Take a long hard look at mentoring written by Ian Rivers, who besides being a writer is a professor of human development and head of the School of Sport and Education at Brunel University London and also a keen Tweeter.

The article sets out a guide for mentors of trainee teachers specifically in schools and so I imagine on the direct route in to teaching.  It makes perfect sense and seems to be more than adequate in terms of ensuring that both parties understand what is required and expected of them at the outset, that good targets are set, useful records are kept, communication is clear and support from the university mentor is encouraged and put to best use. The end result should be a job well done which prepares the NQT for the future.

After a ‘chat’ with Ian two main themes emerged; consistency and quality. Now aren’t they two novel concepts? These words pop up all over the place in teaching and for good reason, if a framework or guideline is going to be developed it has to work consistently and be delivered consistently. Not only does it need to be of a good quality, the consistency of its delivery can only be measured against the quality of its delivery. How do we know how good something is if nobody identified what good is and how do we know it’s being done properly if we don’t measure it against whatever that good is?

So how do we decide what good is when it comes to mentoring trainee teachers? In my experience (in other fields as well as teaching) there is good practice done well, bad practice and good practice done badly. I think the first step to finding good is to separate out these three areas.

The bad we can ignore for now although it may be useful to use as an example or indicator of how things should not be done. Sometimes people need to see bad practice to understand how important good practice is.

The good done well can be set aside as given that it works and it should be replicated.

The good done badly is perhaps where the most work needs to be done and where the most development will take place, it holds the largest potential for learning and improvement.

One of the best ways to gather this information is to ask about experiences gathering qualitative and quantitative data. Who feels it knows it and all that, we need to find out from the horses mouth what works, what doesn’t and what is missing. So we need to ask people who know; recent trainees, mentors and university link staff who support mentor and trainee. All three are involved in the process, all three will have tales of where it works and where it doesn’t. But more than asking what works we need to ask what the value was. If we are talking about measuring quality we need to know the worth of something.

A process might be good but was it worth anything? What did it add. For instance keeping notes of every mentor/trainee meeting might be useful but what did it add in terms of value for time and resources used? Was it worth doing? Could a couple of actions jotted into a planner have done the same job and taken less time? Should the quality indicators be:

  1. Did regular meetings take place
  2. Were actions identified
  3. Were development points identified
  4. Were actions followed up at next meeting
  5. Were development points added to trainee’s development plan (which would then link to a QIs around the development plan e.g was a development plan maintained, was it discussed with university tutor etc)

If these are the indicators then the swathes of paper being printed and emailed around could be spared, as could time spent doing it because they can be met with jotted down notes in a planner.

For quality purposes the mentoring process would have to be dissected into its component parts and again they would be the most crucial elements of the process and may include:

  • Mentor/trainee/university communications – possible QI how many interactions would be expected, records kept
  • Development plan – possible QI frequency of update, inclusion of items from meetings and observations
  • Classroom observations – possible QI frequency, range of classes, anticipated levels of improvement

Perhaps quality could be measured in terms of improvement in a number of areas on a scale for which a benchmark in terms of end point or improvement against starting point could be devised. Mentor, trainee and university link could mutually agree position on the scale.

  • Competence – how well they plan and teach and how well did they demonstrate knowledge of their subject
  • Confidence – how their level of classroom confidence increases not just in terms of at what point they stop shaking but how they begin to become more flexible against the lesson plan, take advantage of seize the moment opportunities, manage behaviour situations
  • Satisfaction – how do they feel about the mentoring process over all, how close did it come to meeting expectations
  • Integration – into the teaching team and the profession, do they contribute to staff meetings

It could be that a scale is set with ten points and it is anticipated that a trainee will progress at least 4 points during the training period or that they will achieve the 7th point as a minimum by the end of the training period. Final feedback from mentor and trainee would show if those QIs are being met, if they are set too high or too low or if they have any value.

Another idea is that mentoring of trainees should be done by teachers who are not too far removed from the memories of trainee days themselves. I’m not saying older teacher’s have memory loss but they may have been trained in very different ways. A relatively newly qualified mentor will have tales to tell that are relevant rather than “back in my day” stories.

Being a mentor should be time spent which counts towards CPD. Making it a target for a mentor to produce a decent NQT is tricky because a mentor can’t be blamed for a trainee who runs screaming from the building after a half term deciding that teaching is not for them after all, but there could be some targets set and measured against for the mentor much in line with those suggested as quality indicators already. Particularly if the mentor is graded against the 4 areas mentioned more latterly and that grading can be influenced by the trainees own input and feedback.

Of course consistency and quality are key because there are other routes into teaching such as pre-service teaching qualifications which need to be considered and idiosyncrasies in different areas of teaching, from Early Years to Secondary to FE and HE but most of these suggestions for quality can easily be mapped onto each scenario and consistency can be assured. It should be anticipated that a direct entry trainee has a similar experience to a pre-service student on placement in terms of quality of experience and of mentor.

As a pre-service PGCE student who had an entirely different experience on placement to that imagined I would advocate anything which seeks to establish and maintain consistency and quality and which encourages and utilises feedback on the experience. It is one thing to complete course expectations and another to have found the experience as useful as it might have been and surely if something was not as useful as it might have been, the quality was not as it might have been and that could be because there was no set of QIs to make it accountable against.

These are just my immediate thoughts and I’m sure that Ian would be delighted to hear any others from all perspectives. You can leave comments on this blog or you can leave comments directly under his TES article or by contacting him via Twitter. I’m very interested in this so shall be keeping a keen eye out myself.

PGCE Blogging Tips



I noticed a huge spike in traffic on my blog on Monday so I figure either PGCE students around the country are reading in preparation for their fast approaching study or they are reading as part of first day induction. I thought it might be a good time to do a blogging tips post.

I’ve started this post with some general prosaic advice and what I guess is a rationale for blogging from my perspective and I go on to give a quick reference list of tips. You may want to skip to that but you might not fully understand the importance of some of those things if you’ve not read the prose so it’s up to you.

I’ve been blogging for years, about 9 or so I think. I have a couple of different blogs as I like to keep them focused on a specific topic. One I make a fair income from, one is more like a journal and then there is this one. This was started as part of a PGCE course sometime during the last academic year. It was, as I understood it, meant to be a place to reflect on the experience, share resources, discuss issues and generally begin a record of the whole teaching experience. I continued post study because I wanted to ‘keep my  hand in’ and it really helps with that over that long summer break between study ending and starting work as a teacher (Monday for me eeeeks).



Blogging is HUGE in the teaching profession, there are tons of blogs from around the world which you will find interesting and which you can link to and create your own huge network. In the UK we’re a bit slow to catch on to blogging but we’re getting there and in this country there are hundreds of blogging teachers and ex teachers and teachers to be. Reading about the future of education suggests blogs are on the rise. They are increasingly being used as a teaching and learning tool so as a future teacher who will have to use blogs in teaching or who will have to encourage students to set them up and use them, now is a good time to start getting used to them.

Blogs are a fab social media for networking, sharing information and resources, story telling and reflecting. I’ve been asked if I blog at two interviews for teaching jobs and am sure that being able to show a well developed blog had an influence on the offer being made. It’s taken as a sign of commitment to what I feel are three of the key principles of professionalism in teaching – being able to share, being part of a network and continuous reflective self development. So having a blog might give you something over other applicants and a USP at interview and shows commitment to your chosen career. Employers know that student teachers are being encouraged to write a blog so be prepared to be asked to log into yours or to provide the link.

Through blogging I’ve been made aware of relevant jobs, given resources, free tickets to conferences and speaking events, linked to discounts on materials and books, invited to talks, given advice and papers relevant to my teaching role and study. I network with teachers across the world and  participate in blogging events as well as other social media related events and I’ve read so much of interest and use to me. BUT it is not a one way street, you have to give back, read other people’s blogs, comment, share resources (there is a list of what you could share below). It doesn’t have to take too much time if you prepare well and even if you aim to blog once a week. I touch type 100 words a minute and thoughts tumble out of my head so I find it easier but more academic posts can still take a while to construct.

bookWhen thinking about content, at the top of my home page there is a quote (reproduced here) which suggests that if students are asked to maintain a reflective blog, they are being asked to be honest and open and that to do so they may have to take risks in what they write. This makes sense because if they/we can’t be honest and open how worthwhile a task is it in terms of being a reflective journal or blog?

I’d argue that you can not be completely honest in your PGCE reflective blog and you can’t take any risks. You are very restricted in what you can write in this blog and have to keep it very much focused on the positive. Even when you are writing about yourself or giving a general opinion there may be people who read it and rather than enter into a discussion, become upset about it, imagine you were talking about them or imagine you were talking about something that didn’t happen.  This did happen to me as an experienced blogger, so be aware of that. I was having a general sound off, sleight on my own naivety which was misconstrued and imagined to be about my placement experience when it was not at all. I can only imagine as it was never discussed with me and I only heard through third parties. But anyway…you may be an experienced blogger or writer but not everyone is an experienced blogger or reader. There is potential, as you know as a student, for many interpretations of the same thing so if you feel there is a slight chance of ambiguity don’t post it, or take some time to fully explain the tone of your piece and set the background. Hopefully your readers will comment and question your post if they have any thoughts on it but that isn’t always the way things are handled.

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Many many people, including hundreds of teachers use blogs to sound off, like a therapy space where they can off load frustrations and if you do a little bit of reading of other blogs you will soon find these. They can be very graphic and they can be upsetting but what they also are is completely anonymous, it’s OK for them to do that and it works for them. It provides a warts and all impression of their experience which is very valuable to student teachers, you are free to comment on their thoughts and ask them questions. Do not use your PGCE blog for this purpose. You do not have anonymity, experienced bloggers will realise that from the start and be mindful that everything they write is accessible to their fellow students, lecturers and mentors, less experienced bloggers may not realise this so exercise some caution.

Make sure that you do not reveal any identifying information about your students. You will have to refer to teaching situations in order to use this blog as a reflective and developmental tool but remove identifying features such as names (give a pseudonym if you have to or use a letter or number), this also includes names of establishment and names of teachers. You may wish to refrain from including any information which identifies your geographical location and to not use your name all of which could be used to narrow down where you live, study and teach. You will talk about your specialist subject so that will narrow down what you teach and it may be possible for students and teachers to identify themselves so be mindful of what you discuss on your blog. Again this can be very restrictive in terms of that quote, it can make a blog very one sided and wishy washy. Save details for your observation feedback and the hoped for (but not always achieved) confidentiality of the lecture or seminar room.

So to the quick tips:

1. Blog as little or as much as you want to. If anyone moans they can stop following you and nobody has to have email alerts set up on your blog. The more you blog the more you become experienced at it and the more you have to show an employer. It’s your space use it as much as you want to. Ironically (and you’ll find this written in many blogs) you find the ones who moan the most are the ones who rock up with the resources you’ve shared in their essays. lessons and presentations

2. Make posts relevant to teaching

3. Make sure that your grammar and spelling are good. Everyone is capable of a typo (there might be some here) and proof reading your own work is tough but you are a teacher, you are representing the profession, it isn’t a very good show if people reading your blog lose faith in a teacher’s ability to read and write well, all teachers are expected to embed literacy and numeracy in their teaching so show you are capable yourself. You wouldn’t want your own children taught by someone who hadn’t mastered grammatical basics yet so don’t expect other people to be happy with that for their children. So give it some attention, nobody is expecting perfection but a demonstration that you can get it right is useful.

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4. You can not delete a follower, the only way you can rid yourself of a follower is by asking them to stop following you, or in extreme cases contact WordPress. You do have potential to pick up a troll. Always have comment settings to ‘must be approved before posting’ and any untoward comments mark as spam and they will automatically go to your spam box from then on. If you do attract a troll the best advice is to not feed it, don’t respond, ignore, move to spam, do not publish their comments.

5. Play about with the design of your blog until it looks right, keep it professional.

6. Link your blog to dedicated accounts such as Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Linkedin. This is your teaching website, share it to build your network. You can set your blog to link with Facebook and Twitter to automatically tweet or post a status update when you publish a new post. This might drive your non-teaching friends insane so set up a dedicated teaching account

7. Read and comment on other people’s blogs, this will help build your network. Some people might be suspicious of this, I’d say just let it wash over you, some people just do not get cooperative working or networking, they are suspicious of kindness and team spiritedness and all I can do is feel sorry for the life they must have led. You will have enough on your plate setting an example to the young people you teach it is not your job to re-educate people you do not know.

8. Vary your posts, you can blog about your placement, your study, share resources, links, notes, books, your own work, thoughts and ideas, television programmes, conferences, topical news items, teaching AND specialist subject specific, activities, tasks, resources –  presentations, Prezi’s, quizzes.. all manner of things including technology and any practical tools you find for organising yourself, writing lesson plans fast… anything.

9. Do not share your own academic work until it has been graded and returned (avoid anyone plagiarising your work). Use downloadwatered down versions on your blog until the end of the module or course.

10. Do not plagiarise on your blog, never copy and paste from another blog. It is good blogging etiquette, almost law, to ping back or re-blog content you want to share further on your network and this is done simply by choosing the re-blog option and adding your own words or by correctly embedding a link to the post into your own post. I usually comment in the comments section of a blog I wish to share or share something from to tell the author that I’m going to do it. Reference any academic work you include with the basic in-text reference as a minimum.

11. Make your posts interesting add pictures and video which are relevant.

12. Remember anonymity or lack of it (see above) and be mindful of it.

13. Blogging is not a competition just like your qualification isn’t, some people will do it well and frequently some may do it well and infrequently, some may do it rarely, some might need to improve their technique. Again it is your space do what you feel you can or want to.



14. One of the reasons the blogging community feels that UK bloggers are slow on the uptake when it comes to blogging is that we are a naturally critical and negative bunch and people worry about what others will think of what they write. Don’t let that stop you, write what you want to and stick to basic rules to protect yourself and those you teach and work with. Your readers have an option to follow or not and they have an option to comment on your content on your blog and if they are not empowered enough to do that don’t worry about what they say or think. This is your professional self that you are developing, you are learning how to improve through reflective self development, you are developing those essential networking skills, you are evidencing that you are serious about your chosen profession. It’s all about you. In addition to that you are learning to use a tool which you will have to encourage the use of at some point in your career, what better time than now to get to grips with it?

15. Make use of tags and categories so that people can find your blog through Google searches and such. Do not include more than 15 tags and categories as this will prevent your post from showing in the WordPress Reader this is where newly posted blogs appear like a news feed and where you pick up interested followers

Finally: HAVE FUN! Blogging is fun, it helps with your development and it opens doors for you. If you are stuck just have a play around before you go live, check out the features, watch You Tube instructional videos, use WordPress help or ask other bloggers who will be only too pleased to help or point you in the right direction.