New Year New Things!

I’ve began 2015 with finally enrolling to do that AAT level 3 which I’ll swiftly follow up with level 4. It will be useful to me in teaching in the future but it will be useful to me in my business now. In my Business Degree and through various work roles I’ve picked up lots of accountancy ‘stuff’ but the AAT just consolidates and professionalises that and I wish I’d just done it alongside my degree but didn’t think of that at the time.

Anyway because of my degree and prior knowledge I was able to start at level 3 which was great and what was even better, I got funding for it so I only had to pay part of the course fee. I opted against doing it at my local college and went to a private provider, it’s quicker and I think my move away from the place I’d spent 4 tough years was a good one. So that is going well.

I’ve had an opportunity to offer training to groups of business people in a whole range of areas from business administration through to logistics, from social media in business to production management, from recruitment and selection to contract law.

It fits perfectly with what I wanted to do and it is all flexibly arranged to suit me and my time and commitment. This is fantastic as it means my new business launch at the end of this month can go ahead as planned and I will not only be doing something I love and which I find very relaxing and therapeutic for my living I also get to teach, my other passion in life.

It is worth noting that as a PGCE holder especially if yours is in LLS that there are many options for teaching out there in formal or less formal settings, as an employed person or freelance/self employed. Fees for course delivery can be very significant particularly if delegates pay per delegate for sessions or companies pay per half, full day or multi day sessions.  The more bespoke your training becomes the more you can adjust your fees.

It is worth remembering that although you might do your training in a formal school, college or HE environment, those are not the only places your PGCE will be recognised or useful to you. My PGCE prepared me better to deliver a higher standard of private training as a self employed trainer and I feel that reflects in the quality of the content and delivery of my sessions.

Keep your options open and be aware of all of those options. Training is a big thing in industry and quality trainers with experience in business or a variety of  businesses with a sound academic knowledge to back that practical experience up is very valuable.

Happy New Year PGCE students and brace yourself for a busy few months as you ride to the end of this fast paced and demanding year. Keep on top of the work, keep focused and keep your mind open to opportunities for teaching, don’t become tunnel visioned and think that the area you train in is the area you have to or will ultimately teach in.


Happy Birthday

This blog has been ‘alive’ for a  year now. So much has happened in that year it is pretty incredible.

I keep noticing spikes in viewers and wonder if this year’s cohorts are not finding it out and if they are well then I hope they are finding it useful.

After all of that I didn’t stay in teaching very long. I wasn’t really teaching in the sector I wanted to teach nor the subject I wanted to teach and so as we were unable to relocate right now I was happily treading water and signed up for MEd. But then someone planted a seed in my mind and now I’m heading down a different road, where I’m the boss and that is a good place to be.

It’s caused all kinds of chaos but I’ve had some really good advice and support through my switches and changes and at the moment it’s good to have that bit more time to spend honing up skills as I do my share to help in a family crisis. Things all just worked out right in the end and once we’re through this period of uncertainty with family health issues we shall be good to pick up and run with the fledgling projects which are currently underway.

The best thing is I get to do some training and that’s always good, so teaching and all I learned about it has not been fully abandoned and it is something I hope to step back into in the future when the time is right for me… or rather when the place is right for me.

People keep telling me that it’s a shame I’m not a teacher because I was good at it and I reminisce and nod but then I reflect on the many opportunities we have to be teachers in our lives and know that I am, was and will ever be a teacher in one form or another and all that I learned and continue to learn will stay with me and is being put to use and will always be put to use. Nothing I do is ever wasted, if I thought it was going to be I would never do it.

All the best of wishes to those of you coming to the close of semester one of your study. Next semester will be a tough test as your teaching steps up and all of that theory begins to come in thick and fast. Top tips – plan your observations well, keep up to date with your paperwork and mentor meetings, keep your blog up to date unlike many on my course who just slapped a couple of entries in at the beginning of June and take every opportunity to learn as much as you can now especially about the curriculum and about other qualifications which you might teach at the same level. For instance if you are teaching BTEC level 2 or 3, at FE or in a school, do a bit of research into GCSE, AS and A level too and look at some NVQ’s if they are relevant in your subjects and also look at apprenticeships and what is taught in them. You might find as I did that you become familiar with one type of qualification, the type your placement offers and then when you get to looking for jobs you find you have no knowledge or experience of any of the others in the wide range of options available at levels 1, 2 and 3. Having some knowledge and insight if not experience can make the difference when you are looking for work. Also keep on top of changes to age of participation and to the GCSE as we know it to prepare yourself for interviews.

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.

Socratic Questioning – Thinking Driven By Questions Not Answers

Some of the things you study on your PGCE might feel like they go right over your head. All of the theory, the new words and phrases and terms might all start to confuse you and make you wonder what language you’re studying in. For people who have been out of formal education for a while or who have never undertaken formal education it must be a nightmare.434211-Royalty-Free-RF-Clipart-Illustration-Of-A-Flexible-Cartoon-Man-Doing-Yoga

Sometimes things sound so much more complex than they are and I think Socratic learning, teaching or questioning is one of those things. Really Socratic teaching  is just what it says in the title, you don’t give your students answers you give them questions and when they give you answers you give them more questions and you welcome their questions, the more challenging they are to you the better for them and for you. It’s a win win.

I’ve included lots of resources at the end so you can find the answers to your own questions and deepen your understanding and knowledge of this topic if you want to.

So, what is it? Simply (you can make it more complex if you wish but why do that?) it’s a discussional type of learning and it can either be planned or can be a seize the moment method of teaching. The more experienced and confident you become the easier this will come to you. Some people recommend it for certain subjects, particularly those which include ethics or ethical codes and standards but it can be used to teach anything.  I definitely use it in business.

download (2)The roots of this method are in the teachings of Greek philosopher Socrates. There’s not much known about the guy other than through the notes of his students who perhaps most famously included philosopher Plato.  ‘Socratic’ is not some mystery word you should have known or heard before it’s just a method based on a teacher’s name, that’s it.

When studying Socratic methods I didn’t really appreciate that I was already more than familiar with them. It’s how I’ve learned my whole life and it’s how I’ve taught my own children to learn. It was good to realise that I already employ Socratic methods and teach in a Socratic style.

If you were one of those children (and who wasn’t?) who constantly asked “Why?” you were inquisitive and eager to learn. If your parents or teachers simply answered you they were giving you a piece of information for you to store and maybe retrieve one day or not. If they ignored you… well that’s for another day.

Alternatively if you had a parent or teacher who answered with “What do you think?” and allowed you to respond and then challenged you with “Why do you think that?” and allowed you to respond and then asked “Can you see why that would be that way?” and allowed you to respond and then said “Does that remind you of anything else?” and allowed you to respond, images (2)they were using Socratic questioning. They were using a Socratic method to assist you in expanding your knowledge and tapping into your own mind, conscious, brain, memory whatever, to find the answer to your question for yourself, to compare, expand and connect concepts, words, themes and ideas to arrive at a logical answer to your original question. Furthermore, they were teaching you how to gather knowledge and some would argue that they were teaching you to be what might be broadly termed intelligent, considering intelligence as the ability to comprehend, to reason, to analyse, to apply logic rather than the ability to store and retrieve information which it is often wrongly described as… unsurprisingly by those who are not able to apply Socratic theory to their own understanding of the world.

My dad would never give me an answer to my many questions as a kid and it frustrated me but now I’m glad he didn’t because he taught me to not always trust what I was told but rather to find out for myself; to rely on my knowledge, to be confident in my knowledge, to broaden and deepen that knowledge and to use the same methods unwittingly with my own inquisitive children. I and they have been taught to question and to either ask questions of others who have knowledge and insight or ask ourselves questions.

images (4)One of my recommendations following earlier observations on my PGCE was to push some students to a higher level with questioning, I did this at times but not consistently during observations and I believe that I did it more when I was not being observed because I was less concerned with the lesson plan going over time and more relaxed and willing to have longer discussions. I like to learn and definitely prefer discussional teaching over didactic teaching and this perhaps explains why I have elements of a humanistic approach in my teaching.

So it’s not that difficult a concept at all and the beauty of it is that you can use it at all levels of ability so it can be factored into a lesson and still allow for differentiation.

Below are some useful resources, a couple of which outline specific questions you can use and what the purpose of that type of question is. One contains a useful table of questions. If you have a classroom to yourself I’d consider making this into an interesting poster and sticking it on a wall, not only so you can see it but so the students can see it. It may encourage them to not only understand your methods but also to use the method for self-questioning and to question you as their teacher.  Wouldn’t it be great if we had classes full of students who wanted to know more?

I came close to that in a few sessions, where we abandoned the lesson plan and had a Socratic discussion. It is amazing how much of what was on the lesson plan was covered in a different way. I was able to write on the board to emphasise (much as I’d planned ) and I was able to quickly press a button and bring up a slide that I had prepared for the lesson to support what we were discussing. The end result? We covered everything I’d wanted to cover but we’d done it in a very different way. A better way which gave the students some control and ownership of their learning and really broadened their knowledge. I saw individuals and groups of individuals come to life and really engage when we learned in this way and I say say ‘we’ because of course I was learning too, this was Socratic teaching at its best.

Useful Resources

This is just an easy read, plain and simple explanation of Socratic Questions Changing Minds – Socratic Questions

This piece from Critical Thinking on The Role of Socratic Questioning in Thinking, Teaching and Learning is interesting and marries up with some of my thoughts. It also contains a simple but interesting classroom dialogue which demonstrates Socratic questioning in action. one to read and role play perhaps with a fellow student or even in your class if you factored in your relevant subject and wanted to plan a Socratic discussion as part of a lesson.

There is another dialogue in this piece from Intel and this is the one with the table I mentioned earlier which could be made into a class poster.

This is an interesting easy read conference paper  Socratic Questioning: Changing Minds or Guiding Discovery, Padesky, 1993 which deals with the topic simply but also takes it on to another level

The following are links to some ebooks available for Kindle via Amazon. I have read all of these and found them very useful. I’ve simplified the concept here to illustrate how easy it can be to use but you can dig as deep into it as you like. These books are not full of jargon and overly academic language. Remember if you have Amazon Prime to check the Kindle Lending Library lots of books are free to borrow including books on educational topics. Also some Kindle books are free and whilst they may not be suitable for academic referencing it’s always good to read what other people think even if you don’t agree with it. It’s all part of broadening your own knowledge and developing your own ideas.

The Thinker’s Guide to the Art of Socratic Questioning is available on Kindle for around £3

Only the Curious Shall Thrive: Strategies for Lifelong Learners to Formulate Insightful Questions is also available on Kindle for less than £2

How to Use Questioning in the Classroom is one of a series of really useful little books by Mike Gershon all available for Kindle at around £3. I have the entire series and found them invaluable when studying and teaching and probably will cleave to them for a long time. These were recommended to me by my programme leader on placement and served to remind me that even those who have been teaching for years are still finding new material to help them in their role. Being a teacher is about constant development and part of that is to keep on reading as well as learning through practice in the classroom.

Ask Don’t Tell. Powerful Questioning in the Classroom is a paper back which I found really useful and is available on Amazon at the moment for around £10

Next a couple of videos. Here’s one  of a series which are all pretty short, sharp and useful to help you embed a concept in your own mind. It’s from a user called Teach Like This which is worth subscribing to. This is Video number 11 and is entitled How to do the Socratic Method

Finally here’s a TED talk. This one goes more deeply into the philosophical root of Socratic thinking and has some good references and illustrative examples of what can happen when people are not taught to think for themselves which will give you some insight as to why you may wish to apply Socratic theory to your own learning and development and the potential you unlock in students who you encourage to learn in this way.

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.

Educating the East End

The new series of popular, award winning fly on the wall documentaries began this week, Channel 4’s Educating the East End so what did we make of it? It’s really useful to watch these programmes and see some of what you’re learning as a PGCE student or NQT applied in the classroom and also to be able to empathise with familiar challenges and triumphs. Here’s a trailer just in case this is all news to you:

I love that it showed a later life transitioner into teaching, Mr Bispham, it’s relevant to me although how anyone can go into teaching with no teaching qualification or placement experience amazes me. I don’t think I could have done that, it’s a brave approach so kudos to him for that. Mr Bispham is not as old as me though, I could be his mother, he’s only 28 apparently, something I didn’t find out until after I’d written this. Maybe did a Bispham myself there and put a foot in it, it’s so easy to do.

More on thatdownload later, he came across as having the right values at heart without a doubt and imagine that with a less unruly class he is even more capable than he showed on the show. My son has just completed year 9 and headed into year 10 and tells me that all of his teachers say year 9 is the worst year to teach, maybe they suffer from middle child syndrome en masse or maybe it’s just that time when a huge swing happens from child to person who believes they are more or less an adult now. A time when most of the boys still want to play and giggle and have fun but are expected to be more mature and sensible (this continues until they are about 45 I believe), yet they not mature and sensible enough to be treated as adults and where the girls get their slap on and think that because they have functioning child bearing mechanisms that validates them as women. I can see many reasons why year 9 may be a challenge.

Any of us who have taught more than one class in training will know that there isn’t a one size fits all for youngsters and you have to take the rough with the smooth and try to manage the challenges effectively without sitting crying in a corner waiting keep-calm-and-stop-putting-your-foot-in-itfor your ‘easier’ class to come through the door. Having a breakthrough with a challenging class is ultimately more rewarding even if it may be slow to arrive and harder to achieve, or rather because it may be slow to arrive and harder to achieve.

Mr Bispham didn’t seem to be able to prevent himself from putting his foot in it did he? It really highlighted how careful teachers have to be with what they say, there is a room of 20 – 30 individual people in front of them with different experiences, different things going on in their lives, different attitudes, different expectations and it can be a mine field where tip toeing through can suddenly result in a huge explosive mess, which then has to be managed and that detracts from teaching, the lesson plan goes out of the window, command of the class can be lost and the teacher is left a heaving wreck of emotions all swirling around a core of inadequacy and goes home wondering if Tesco need any checkout operators.

We are taught on teaching courses, whatever their label, to factor in different religions, abilities, beliefs, languages all that imagesE&D stuff (Click for a useful if dated FE resource) but then on top of that are some of the perhaps unknown idiosyncrasies of life that we saw in the first episode of Educating the East End. A teacher can’t plan for everything but having said that, I’m sure Mr Bispham will be more careful in future when he talks about individual aspirations and about deadly diseases, although to skirt around important issues would be an injustice to the students and not prepare them for reality. We can’t always teach them about the world we’re preparing them for wearing kid gloves because when they get out there the gloves are definitely off. I’ve sat in classes as an adult student and been deeply offended by something someone has said, either a teacher or fellow student and felt disempowered to speak up about why it has bothered me and have taken it home and let it trouble me to the point that I just didn’t want to go back and be in a room with people capable of such thoughts, so I’m sure children do the same, the ones who explode and react are perhaps the least of a teacher’s worries.

I enjoyed observing the observation (here’s what is being looked at in observations) and was as proud as he was of his Good outcome. Some people need to feel that they are outstanding but when you’re at the top the only way is down so it’s good to not always excel, it doesn’t give much room for growth. I’d like to be a good teacher most of the time and have my product_olo_sh2moments where I excel and have a great lesson. Of course having a great lesson every time would be amazing and that would always be the goal but I certainly wouldn’t beat myself up about being good at what I do especially in the circumstances Mr B was in.

I noticed that the kids seemed to behave better during the observation and that is something that used to warm me from my placement days, that the kids really want you to do well, even if they might not always show how much they appreciate what you are doing they don’t want to see you fail and they do tend to turn into model students during an observation, not all of them all of the time but most of them most of the time.

I think the overriding impression of him was a man who had the right intent, who wanted to teach these kids and wanted to do it well, to make it interesting and to share some of his passion and no doubt there are classes and moments where that happens and it all feels amazing but the programme focused more on the difficulties and I guess it’s fair to do that to give a real impression of what teaching is like.

images (1)I like that the head is new to the role and hope that we learn more of her challenges, I’d like to see more of how she has to balance her leadership and management role at the helm of the school aside from dealing with student issues but then I suppose these programmes are about the teaching of the students so there may not be scope for that within the remit of the show.

I’m looking forward to the next episode and have watched all of the additional material on Channel 4’s website and feel that this is going to be as interesting an insight as the last series, I think stars are going to shine out, tears are going to be shed, there will be plenty of laughter and I’ll once again be on the end of my seat fingers crossed waiting for exam results at the end.

I don’t really want to teach in a school, it was never my intention, I feel my skills are better suited to FE for lots of reasons but who knows, it might happen one day so it’s great to have this insight and to either have confirmation that I made the right choice or to be enticed into the challenging world of secondary education.

More reading for behind the scenes interviews and to see what others make of the show: 

Here’s a run down of what to expect from future episodes download (1)

Here’s Mr B’s take on the first episode which I found after I’d finished my review  

Here’s the Telegraph’s take on it with their Rise of the TV Teacher article

Here’s what Metro made of it with their 5 best moments from the first episode

TES have a live blog on the show each week which you can join in or just read by clicking the link

Teach First have an interview with head Jenny Smith which is an interesting read 

Qualified At Last! Time to teach… or not.

Finally, after a long long wait for official confirmation I am the owner of a Postgraduate Certificate in Education with an Ofsted 1 grading. Not a bad turn around time that when exam board sat at the end of July and we had all work graded and returned earlier in July.

I can’t say that the wait for this confirmation hasn’t been without its inconveniences because it most certainly has. It’s not good for a new teacher to miss the start of term by not being able to complete evidencing of qualifications and fitness for purpose in time to take up a job and not having evidence required by agencies or HE providers for registration for work or for masters level study but hey ho, c’est la vie and all that.

So after all of that and the stress of the past few weeks trying to chase up the qualification wasting time, effort and money receiving the official confirmation is a bit of an anti climax because there is nothing depending on it or waiting on it any longer, my opportunities have passed and I have to start looking for new ones with the wind blown out of my sails.

I’m thinking of giving up and waiting a year, working in industry and looking to get into teaching next year, I’m not keen on a late start, my plans have gone to pot and so although I love teaching, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do and I’m good at it, I probably won’t be a teacher now for the short term at least.

Walking into a classroom, being responsible for all that teachers are responsible for takes a lot of confidence and it takes even more of that confidence when you are going to attempt to do it with no preparation time after the term has already begun and someone else has already been teaching your classes and you’ve lost that opportunity to set out the stall in the first days. I think that time when the class arrives for a new term or a new course is really important not only for building a rapport with the class and establishing some ground rules but also for your credibility as a teacher and also for your own confidence. I don’t know if confidence diminishes as you get older but certainly I don’t feel that I’m prepared for being dropped in at the deep end in quite this sense. I’ve seen from my placement how unsettling it is for students to have a change of teacher, it was one of the things the students I taught complained about the most. As a recent student myself I can imagine how I would feel if my teacher suddenly changed after a couple of weeks. It’s not really something I want to do. I don’t want to give students a poor service, I want to be the best I can be and this isn’t how you go about doing that.

It might be the wrong decision but it feels right and so with deep regret it seems that my teaching career, the one I’ve worked so hard for is going to be on hold for a while yet. I won’t do nothing teaching related, I’ll keep reading and keep preparing myself and make sure I don’t miss out on developments in my chosen sector but it won’t quite be what I’d planned to be doing this year, I’d hoped that I’d be getting a year under my belt and learning and developing on the job but that’s not going to happen now. I might be able to start a masters in January somewhere but I had to let my offered place go. I just hope this doesn’t mean that I end up back in industry and never get out again.

I wonder if people responsible for the administration of these qualifications realise the damage they cause with their lack of attention to detail, their reluctance to listen and their shoddy unprofessional attitude? I doubt they’d care because if they cared they wouldn’t have made the mess they made in the first place. Feeling very let down at the moment but then I guess that’s life and at least I have my qualification which is better than nothing.