Reaching out to all

I write this blog in response to @betsysalt who raised some excellent questions about the tenancy of we bloggers in teaching who write blogs about best practice which makes it seem that we never have a bad day or bad class. Can I start by dispelling that myth-  at least for me! My blogs are useful to me as reflections for the things I managed to get working in lessons;  hopefully they help others-but I know I am not a polished outstanding teaching, just a weary traveler.  I’m sure many will agree.

As part of my role as a secondary teacher I help mentor and coach PGCE students. I have two bits of advice for them on the first day they meet me. 

  1.       Your relationship with the pupils is key to everything
  2.       Teach the class, not the plan.

With those two bits of  information in our mind let me address the questions @betsysalt raised. The original blog is in italics.

Dear Many Teacher Bloggers (& yes, ‘Gurus’)

Thank you for your awesome blogging. I love reading about your ideas.  I want more please! But I think the fab teachers I work with need more than what seems to be on offerCan you answer these questions:

How you engage a severely autistic child in your classroom?

In the school I work in we have an extremely good range of pupils ability, from pupils who will struggle to get Gs through to straight A* pupils. We also have a large Additional Need contingent including pupils on the ASD spectrum, and it’s hard to always engage them. Often their attitude is set prior to coming into the room due to external factors. And it doesn’t take much for them to feel afraid and thus close off. When we are trying to make all pupils progress this is really hard. It comes back to my two rules again, relationship and teaching the pupil. If the pupil likes you and your lesson you stand half a chance. I find that prepping the TA attached to them prior to the lesson means that if they need to leave with the pupil for whatever reason, the pupil still makes progress. Catching up with them both afterwards is essential though to keep the positive relationship up.

How do you cope with a child who refuses to learn, no matter how engaging your lesson, or effective your pedagogy?

I certainly know the type. Some pupils just don’t seem to respond to anything. Detentions don’t work- even if they do come to them. No matter how effective or exciting your lessons are they just fold their arms and refuse to partake. I guess firstly it’s relationship, but quite often it’s a negative one. Then it’s how good the school systems are. Quite often these pupils are the same across the board but if you find a teacher they do work well with, mine them for ideas. Also could you shift them from your group into another teacher’s? if so, that may get them away from the group of peers they may be acting to, which may help.

How do you teach a child who can’t read, or perhaps can’t write, in history? In science?

Differentiation?  We all need to present information in alternative formats for different learning styles.  If a pupil is illiterate it’s unlikely they will be targeted a C+ at GCSE, so get them to do something they can do – ie draw, work on a laptop.  Give them in the information in an audio-visual way – as teachers it is our job to be creative – it surely takes a lot of time, but when pupils engage, learn and make progress, there is no greater thrill.  

When school is the only safe place, how do you ensure children learn despite their internal and external wounds?

Relationship.  There are a lot of broken children out there, and they break our hearts if we care.  But IF we care, then we know that school is the safest place for some of our children, so it is our duty to look out for them, to have good systems in place to pastorally support them and give them the best start in life.

When a child has no English how do you include them?

Difficult one, I once had 2 pupils who had moved straight from Poland.  I used Google Translate for my worksheets.  I’m not saying it was good, but it was better than not doing anything.  Pupils with no English really need extracting to do English, in my opinion, as without specialists teaching them they won’t be able to access any work in any subject.  As a non-English-subject teacher it is my job to model the language, and seek advice from the EAL coordinator.  And where possible, try to have them access the content – by  translating worksheets etc.

How do you make the curriculum relevant to a Somali child?

Deep question – but I think we’d ask the same question about any children.  How can we make the Black Death relevant to a 21st Century, 30th generation English pupil?  We just need to be creative.  It depends on the lesson, but all humans have the same basic understanding of Emotions etc. If we can tap into imagination, nothing is impossible, it just may take a lot of time to sort it out!

 @chocotzar said in her staggering blog tonight: ‘ It’s the people who always matter the most to me, not the pedagogy

 For me, she captured it just right. Yes I need my teachers to keep learning and to develop their practice, continually learning, growing their own pedagogy. But children come first and I want the staff to see each child as an individual, with a home life, time in school only being a part of who they are. Many child have massive barriers to be overcome before they can even begin to learn. How do we enable children to do that? What is it about us as teachers that means we can do that in a lesson. There is excellent blogging about teaching and learning out there, but I would find it more accessible if it was directly related to children –what worked ? What didn’t? Which children have you tried this with?

I’ve been fortunate, I’ve made lots of mistakes but I’ve had the opportunity to learn.  I am still learning.  All I can do, is to keep trying with the pupils I have.  Some I need to work with other staff with, some I can win round, some don’t need winning as they are already on side.  I’ve had eight years of teaching , making different mistakes and learning from them each year.  I’ve been fortunate this year to have learnt a lot, and experimented a lot, and learnt a lot from these experiments.  Not every teacher has this opportunity, but my pupils are a lot more engaged now than what they were because of this, and I would strive to encourage everyone to try something new at least once a week!

Age? Ethnicity? Language? Class? SEN? Behaviour? Autistic? Should some of these ‘classification’ matter? No. Do they? Yes. How do you make sure the carers in your class get support to do their homework when you know they don’t have time to complete it at home as they are looking after someone they love?

Pass….  Knowing the pupil and relationship I guess.  Is homework that important?  Or is the pupil more important?

How do you encourage a child who gets no encouragement at home, in fact where school is a place reviled because of a parent’s own experience?

By caring, by a drip drip drip approach.  By showing them that there is another way.  By investing time with them.  We can do a lot over 5 years at secondary, or 8 years at primary.

And perhaps most of all, can we hear about your mistakes. We all know failure is a vital stage of learning…when did you fail? What did you learn?  So you fantastic teachers out there, yes you, you who inspire your class most days, make them laugh, keep them safe and engage them in that staggeringly complex process of learning…can we have less pedagogy and more people.

I fail every day in something.  But I learn as well.  So hopefully I get to be a better teacher.  However, this is something I will include in my blogging from here on  in.  And maybe there is a challenge to all of us bloggers.

In fact, more children. What worked? What didn’t?  I’m all for learning, I’m all for developing practice. But can you put pedagogy in context please.  So it’s not people v pedagogy. ’s pedagogy for people- Children: that’s who we want to impact on.

That’s all. Thanks.oggers (& yes, ‘Gurus’)

Thank you for your awesome blogging. I love reading about your ideas.

Please keep challenging us to do what we can, to the best of our abilities – because as great as it is to share good practice, we are here to serve our pupils, and being honest and open may make others not make the same mistakes we have.


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June 2, 2013 · 8:35 pm

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