Category Archives: Teaching

5 Stages of Remote Teaching

The good news is you’re probably already at stage 4. Here are the five:

  1. Stability
  2. Survival
  3. Innovation
  4. Opportunity
  5. Enrichment

And here’s what they look like:

1. Stability

Remember stability, clarity, security? Early 2020? Feels like decades ago don’t you think? The curriculum was known and effective. Things were generally clear. We knew what to do, how to do it and (if we had the time to think about it), why we bothered. Concerns were: Ofsted, Year 9 (or Year 6), and keeping the staff room cup-washing rota viable.

2. Survival

March 2020. We fell off a cliff. Chaos. Completely unknown territory. We had no idea at all what to do. The curriculum became erratic or non-existent. We couldn’t get to it because of two barriers:

Technical: How do we/they get online and what do we press when we get there?

Pedagogical: How do we do what we did so well in class when all we have is a tiny rectangle in which to do it?

3. Innovation

OK. So it wasn’t good, but after the shock we took a peek at the new landscape and began to play around with our new tools: Zoom, Teams, Google Classroom, Jamboard, Mentimeter, Desmos. We crossed into the curriculum by using the barriers within our lesson design – a bit of technical skill, a bit of remote pedagogy, a bit of the literacy. The new gold standard was not wall-to-wall live teaching but creative learning design.

4. Opportunity

And here we are now, February 2021, about to return to school. We’ve worked hard, we’re exhausted, but we’ve learned so much about learning – because we’ve had to. The barriers are significantly thinner. Well done you.

But how will we preserve our learning back in school? How will we use this opportunity we’ve had to grow personally and professionally?

5. Enrichment

So here’s my hope for the future. A richer curriculum. See the grey rings? That’s a legacy of the barriers. A reminder that struggle teaches, failure strengthens and frustration breeds success. The curriculum can be enriched because of this lengthy, uninvited and exhausting training course on which we’ve all been delegates: COVID-19

How well do these stages match your own experience? Did you miss any? Squeeze others in between? Linger too long? I hope we don’t ever go back to stage 1, but at least if we do, this time there’s a roadmap.

Why You Should Not Teach Live Lessons

Before COVID, we educators and trainers had this:

And then, early in 2020, we didn’t. All we had was this:

A rectangle. Our laptop screen, monitor, phone or tablet. The space in which we had to teach, to learn, to train, communicate, have fun.

And then, once we’d picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves off, we made it work. Here’s what we did with our rectangles:

We opened up the world. We connected, we innovated, we created. We struggled, became frustrated and we persevered through fear, anger, and through a time of simply not knowing what to do – or how – and we got there.

But from the start, a dubious benchmark emerged. Teachers feared it, politicians didn’t understand it and parents used it as a yardstick (stick): The quality of online learning was sometimes judged – erroneously – by the quantity of live lessons.

Some folks embraced live teaching, others fought it – still do – but in my opinion the debate is mis-aligned. If we aspire to teach live online, replacing a day in school with a day on screen, then we miss a huge opportunity.

Puentadura’s model explains why. Aspiring to teach live is substitution. The professional focus is on replicating what you do in school. You’ll miss the vast opportunities that technology offers. You’ll not think to augment, modify or even redefine learning. You’ll fill your rectangle with the same pedagogy which pervaded your classroom.

I’m not saying don’t ever teach live. I’m saying that substitution is only the start of innovation. And if you want to improve your teaching, innovate with the tools that have come your way: Teams, Zoom, Connect, Blackboard, Basecamp, Slack, Padlet, Mentimeter, Desmos, Kialo-edu, Mural, Google Classroom, Remnote, Jamboard, GSuite Apps, Trello to name just 16.

Here’s the kind of blended approach I’m coming across in UK schools:

  • Confirm house rules and expectations (behaviour, interaction, technical).
  • Clarify risk assessment and safeguarding practices.
  • Begin the day with a live check-in and tasking session.
  • Set pupils to work, emphasizing the skills they’ll use to gain the knowledge required.
  • Open up themed breakout rooms where pupils can collaborate.
  • Open up a shared online space where learning is posted and where pupils get ideas.
  • Invite pupils to present their learning using a choice of five online platforms.
  • Schedule a short, interactive lecture from an expert in another part of the world.
  • Make yourself available for asynchronous chat support.
  • Take smaller groups aside for extra help, challenge or alternative provision.
  • Meet live at the end of the morning/afternoon to share work and to check out.

Please do teach live online if that’s your style or you’ve been directed to. But please don’t miss the wonderful opportunities to not teach live all the time that have appeared in our rectangles over the last year. Then maybe, when we do go back to school, vaccinated and resilient, we’ll be even better at what we do – adding value to the future.

www.thinkingclassroom.co.uk

Courses at Eventbrite

How to Blend Learning #1

The ‘blended’ in ‘blended learning’ means combining in-class with online teaching. It can be synchronous (live) or asynchronous. It’s touted as one way to be lockdown ready. I propose it’s the only way to be 21st century ready.

It’s not something to do ‘while we get through this’. It’s a permanent redefinition of learning. What it offers is long overdue: a necessary kick start to finally break from the educational practices that fuelled the first Industrial Revolution, to fully prepare students for the demands of the fourth. We need to get this right.

Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska on Unsplash

There are three ways to come at blended learning:

1. Plan learning for in-class then transform it to work online.
2. Plan learning for online then transform it to work in-class.
3. Integrate all learning spaces then plan the learning.

Embarking on 1 and 2 risks a frustrating ‘good enough’ short-termism. 3 lays deep foundations where learning is central, not the tools or methods of its delivery.

1. Planning an in-class lesson to work online prompts the search for web tools that will replicate face to face activities. This will only ever partially succeed. In-class will never be the same as online. We’ll never achieve the full authenticity of a classroom where we’re all breathing the same air.

2. Likewise, planning an online lesson to work in-class is equally doomed. The range and flexibility of web tools cannot be replicated in the ‘real’ world. Online collaboration, editing, access to information, creativity – these and more are in a completely different league to their in-class counterparts.

3. The third approach separates learning from the debate about online vs in-class. It challenges us to take a different, long term view:

Think big about how and where learning happens.
Take time to bring your philosophy of learning to life.

1 and 2 fuss about which mug to use. 3 considers the quality of the coffee.

Places where learning can take place are combined into a whole. School, library, bus, bedroom, street, in-class, online. Learning doesn’t stop with a school bell or start with a log on.

Online happens to be a place where we can collaborate and create. In-class happens to be a place where high quality discussion takes place. Research in the library; debriefs on the bus; texting in the street. Learning is bigger than school and bigger than online.

Effective learning is independent of the tools or spaces used to bring it to life. We all have a philosophy of learning. Mine cites eight evidence-based features that underpin learning design:

  • Relationships
  • Visual Thinking
  • High Order Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Self-efficacy
  • Feedback
  • Active Learning
  • Peer Teaching

These are not tied to a room or a screen. We can build learning relationships online and face to face; we can think visually at a screen or in a forest; feedback can be verbal, written, emailed, texted or videoed.

Don’t get caught in the twin traps of, ‘How do I make this work online?’ or ‘How do I make this work in-class?’ Instead ask, ‘What is my philosophy of learning? Which principles work best?’ Then, looking at all the tools and resources and places and spaces available to you and your pupils ask, ‘How do I bring this philosophy to life?’

Thinking Classroom resources from September 2020 will help you to do this.

COVID-19 Back to School

I must share this with you; the unedited words of a teacher of just 4 years speaking from her heart; yet speaking pragmatically (14 ideas below) and, I hope, helpfully as we start to contemplate our ‘what nexts’:

Multiple Solutions to Future Worries

Anxiety is a funny thing. I guess as human beings we are known to be creatures of habit. During the first few weeks of lockdown, my anxiety was awful. My routine went. My habits were gone. I hated the idea of simply not being busy; not being in work – not having a set of goals to achieve and not seeing my friends and family. I have always been someone who thrives from being busy and being surrounded by people so when lockdown was announced, I felt lost, totally lost.

However, after a few weeks into lockdown life and with support from a coach provided by my headteacher, I soon began to get into the ‘Lockdown routine.’ I found ways to keep my anxious brain busy – running, reading, playing board games, mindful colouring in, walks and staying in touch with loved ones over the phone.

When my coach asked me a week ago how I would feel if we were told that schools were back open on Monday (hypothetically) and lockdown was over, I felt that familiar tightening of the chest and that unwelcome knot of anxiety was back in the pit of my stomach. I was able to list off my future worries and without realising, I verbally started sharing solutions to these hypothetical problems.

So I have decided to share my ‘future worries’ about returning to ‘reality’ in the hope that it could help you in some way.

Children struggling with social distancing

• Take the children outside and remodel the 2m rule using a metre stick. Reiterate to the children why keeping 2m apart from one another is important and how it makes a huge difference to ourselves and to all those around us. Reassure the children that social distancing won’t last forever and we need to show love, courage and trust by following these safety rules.

Praise children for following social distancing rules through verbal praise, stickers, vision points, etc.

• Ask the children to be creative and come up with their own strategies to help themselves and others to remember the 2m rule.

• Liaise with leadership if strategies are not successful and further advice/guidance is needed.

Wellbeing of the children

• Liaise with parents/guardians


• Seek support from leadership and DSLA’s.


• PSHE discussions with the class linked to feelings.

• Share own feelings with the class, explain that any emotion/s that they are feeling are okay and it’s how we deal we these emotions that is the most important thing.

• Share with children what I have been worried about (the things I’m writing about here) and how I have spent time thinking of how to find solutions to each of my worries – this activity could help show the children that you are showing trust by sharing your feelings with them so that they can share their worries too. Together you could then find multiple solutions to their present/future worries.

Children forgetting everything you’ve taught them

• Instead of focusing on what has been forgotten, focus on what has been learnt. Share and celebrate with children what new skills they might have learnt/developed during lockdown, e.g. baking, cooking, gardening, etc.

• Reflect with children what we are now even more thankful for now more than ever – school! – seeing our teachers/friends, family being safe and healthy. Get them to order what the most important things to us were before corona and what they are now – has anything changed, reflect on why.

• Share and celebrate home learning with the children and for those who haven’t been able to talk about what they are looking forward to the most now we are back in school.

Well-being of colleagues being low

• Redirect conversations away from COVID19 – Talk to one another about what positive things we have been doing to stay busy, e.g. baking, cooking, getting into fitness again, etc. Discuss what we are now looking forward to again.

• Be the one to bring the positive energy to the team – SMILE! But also know that it is okay to not be okay and to have key members of staff who you feel comfortable to go to.

REMEMBER!

If these strategies don’t have the desired effect, instead of blaming yourself saying,

‘I did this wrong’ or

‘that teacher is better than me because their children are better or they seem to be OK’,

rephrase the situation t
o,

‘that wasn’t the outcome I expected.’

From this you can remain positive and explore further solutions/seek additional support.

Holly Longley is a primary school teacher working in Hampshire, currently responsible for a Year 2 class. She’s offering her reflections here to help you think through the next few weeks and months. Whether her specific ideas work for you and your pupils is not the whole story. Holly’s advice is about the how as much as the what: Rather than stew on your future worries, write them down now and address them now. Be reflective. Be creative. Be ready.

Active Learning and The First Kiss

omar-lopez-716653-unsplashFirst memory? Emotionally significant? Powerful? You remember where you were; what happened; how it felt. Or at least you remember remembering.

First lecture? Emotionally significant? Powerful? You remember where you were; what it was about; the lecturer’s clothes. Really?

First film you ever saw at the cinema? Emotionally significant? Powerful? You remember the cinema, the film, the story?

First day of school…first this first that first other. What do we learn from firsts? And what have they got to do with Active Learning?

Our firsts, our lasts and our interesting-in-betweens are memorable because they are different; they involve a significant change. A first is a change from not having/being/doing to having/being/doing. When you start something there’s a change, a difference; when you end it there’s another change; something weird in the middle is a change as well. Change is difference; difference is noticeable; noticeable is engaging; and if you are engaged you are active. Firsts, lasts and interesting get your brain involved.

Active means involved – like you were with your first kiss. You noticed that, right? Remembered it? Learned it. Replayed it.

In formal learning, you’re active when you have control, ownership, when you can affect things. Sitting and listening to someone else’s choice of topic delivered in someone else’s style is not active. You make it active by acting: by walking out to go and find your own curriculum presented in a way that suits you more.

Passive is great for the teacher. Bad for the student.

Going active with learning is a risk. You have to trust your students to act well; act in their best interests; act for their learning’s sake. Much easier to control them than share the ownership.

Why don’t we do active learning? Top 3 answers:

  1. We don’t know what it is and why it’s better than what we do now.
  2. We’re scared we won’t cover the curriculum.
  3. We don’t trust our students to share ownership of the learning with us.

And the top 3 reasons why we should do active learning:

  1. Students deserve it – their future demands it of them.
  2. Research justifies it.
  3. It’s more satisfying for everyone.

And finally, 3 ways to do active learning:

  1. Ask students about really effective lessons (and do more).
  2. Ask students to prove to you that they’ve learned. Challenge them. Push them.
  3. Make students accountable for their success. It’s up to them, not you.
  4. Embed the unexpected and the surprising. Plan in firsts, lasts and interestings.

I Don’t Like Group Work

But only when it’s done for the sake of doing group work. To tick a box; develop life skills; now back to your spellings etc. etc. When there’s a clear reason for working together, a purpose and the group is managed well, then it’s fine. Necessary. Invaluable.

When you work in a group or a team, does 1+1=3? Or does it equal 1.89? Research says working together improves learning. But that’s like saying food improves health. Let’s think about it:

My occasional collaborator and like-mind, Tom Hoerr, once principal of the world leading New City School in St Louis, says there are three different ways for teachers to learn and work together:

  1. Co-operation: We all get along just fine, pushing towards the same goal, generally agreeing about how things get done.
  2. Collaboration: We all work together on the same project, bringing our diverse and unique skills to bear on it.
  3. Collegiality: We all learn together, researching and teaching one another about the most effective aspects of our profession.

Let’s transform this for students in class:

  1. Co-operation: We all get along fine in the classroom. We do our work. We can, by and large, sort out any disagreements.
  2. Collaboration: We work together on the same task, each taking on a different role and being responsible for a different aspect of success.
  3. Collegiality: We take responsibility for mastering content and teaching it to others – maybe as student mentors, student coaches or subject experts.

Add to this the choice between group work, team work and project work and you have a better idea of the many different kinds of working together: collaborate on a project; co-operate on a task etc. But not sitting around the same table, individually and quietly working on the same thing.

Students don’t come group-ready, especially younger ones. Children who are still busy establishing who they are will be less ready to work well with others. They need core skills: listening, turn-taking, decision making, negotiation, conflict resolution. Just like adults have. Mostly.

Start small. A group of one is a good beginning. Then pairs, then trios. Cap it at sixes and make sure everyone in the group has a clear role in addition to the learning task – facilitator, recorder, checker for example.

Does it work? Research from John Hattie and the EEF suggest it does, but only if we get it right. Ineffective group work is a thing too.

Check out this month’s Thinking Tool for more detail on helping students to work and learn together effectively, efficiently and productively. And reflect on times when you’ve absolutely hated group work and times when you’ve really loved it. What was the difference?

www.thinkingclassroom.co.uk

 

 

 

Do You Let Your Pupils Doodle?

ADoodle

Doodle by Mike Fleetham during briefing about new Ofsted inspection framework. October 2018

The Guardians of Doodle

The 24th September 2011 was an important day for doodlers but it may have passed you by. That is, unless you happened to be reading volume 378, issue 9797 of The Lancet, in which an article by G D Schott mentioned that,

Those in the “doodling” group performed better on the auditory monitoring task, and on a subsequent memory test.

G D Schott (thanks by the way, I doodle a lot) was referring to work by another doodle guardian, Jackie Andrade, whose original article puts a figure on this doodle-benefit,

The doodling group performed better … and recalled 29% more information on a surprise memory test.

****Popular press bad science alert warning watch out think first message****

This is one piece of research on a very small group of humans which concluded that for some of them, in a staged experiment, recall might be better by 29%. On this basis, DON’T yet put doodling on your curriculum; DON’T buy everyone in school a doodle pad, doodle pens and DON’T by any means write an Ofsted-ready Doodle policy. Can you image what the margins of that one might look like?

Doodle Research

However, DO think about your own experience of doodling; DO consider its possible benefits for your pupils, how you might include it in lessons and DO plan a small piece of class-based research that might help you to explore the idea a bit more.

Or to get started, maybe you’d like to try this:

As a teacher or leader, it’s likely you’ll be going on a course before too long. Might even be one of mine. If you are, try out a bit of doodling during the input. Maybe you’d do this anyway but if not, have a go. Circles, squares, squiggles, blocks, loops, patterns, people – whatever flows out of your pen. Then, during first coffee, whip out your doodle and see if it triggers memories about the session content. If you’ve been allowed out in a pair (rarer these days) do this with your buddy. If not, try it with a stranger. Your opening line (and safeguard if you’re called to task by the course leader for not paying attention) might be,

Andrade, from 2009 proposes that doodling might stabilise arousal at an optimal level -keeping people awake or reducing the high levels of autonomic arousal often associated with boredom – and also, more particularly, that doodling might aid concentration by reducing day dreaming. That’s why I appeared not to be listening. Do you like my tessellation? Learn this by heart.

Do let me know how you get on. That doodle of mine at the top of this post is an interesting one. When I look back at it, I can recall the room I was in, who I sat with, what the presenter was like – even a few words from the PowerPoint – and a melancholic irony framed by my imagined words, ‘here we go again.’

December 2018 – New resources for Visual teaching and learning at thinkingclassroom.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Why British Values Are Not Enough

ethan-kent-1053539-unsplash

4 British Values

‘Necessary but not sufficient’: something I learned from my A-Level Maths teacher, the wise, modest and rigorous Mr Rooke. We were learning to prove things. With Maths. And to do this, certain conditions had to be met. They were needed – essential – but on their own were not enough. Other things were required – sufficient things to prove the theorem.

In order to write it’s necessary to have something to write with but that’s not sufficient. You also need something to write about and something to write on. For a car to move it’s essential to have fuel but not sufficient. You need a driver (or an AI) and somewhere to go. The minimum number of necessaries defines the sufficient.

Likewise, these British Values are necessary,

  • democracy,
  • the rule of law,
  • individual liberty, and
  • mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and
    beliefs

but not sufficient for a successful, future-focused, 21st Century economy.

Not a Critique

I’m not going to use this space to critique statutory requirements imposed without consultation.

Nor will I point to the irony that this imposition is undemocratic. I won’t dwell on the difficulty in actually defining ‘a value’ (is it a belief? or a quality? neither? both? something else?) never mind the challenge of any two people agreeing about what a specific value might mean in practice. No, this is not the place for that.

Or the internal contradictions: does individual liberty extend to rejecting British Values? Does mutual respect and tolerance welcome people living by a different rule of law? And is a rule of law actually a value, or simply a rule. Of law?

That’s for another time, another article.

I’ll suggest an alternative, or maybe an augmentation, or even an improvement.

6 Virtues

Positive Education proposes 6 virtues comprising 24 character strengths:

  • Wisdom
  • Courage
  • Humanity
  • Transcendence
  • Justice
  • Moderation

character-strengths-and-virtues-classification

It’s a fruit of the Positive Psychology movement founded by  Martin Seligman. For Seligman psychology, and its associated interventions, is not about deficit (I’m broke – please fix me with therapies and self-improvement). Rather, it treats each individual as a wonderful mix of  strengths which can be ranked and applied to their challenges. It’s not about whether you are strong or weak. It’s about discovering the different ways in which you are already strong and using this knowledge to grow.

Positive Global British Values

British Values read like restorative announcements. The virtues present as aspirations brimming with possibility.

But one can contain the other: it’s straightforward to map values onto virtues. For example, the virtue of Humanity includes kindness; Justice has fairness; and Moderation cites self-control and forgiveness.

kindness + justice + fairness + self-control + forgiveness = law, liberty, tolerance, respect and democracy.

The British Values are necessary but they are not sufficient for this (or any) country to successfully navigate the 21st and 22nd centuries. The world is changing fast: shifting political landscapes; the rise of AI in law, healthcare, weapons, coaching and more; environmental challenges; new skills for work and the need for enhanced ethical thinking. Being tolerant is not enough.

We need values which give us purpose in an unknown world; virtues that inspire us to be more; and character strengths that empower us to do more.  We need British Values and we need Positive Global Values too.

If you want to hear more about Positive Education in practice listen to this podcast where I talk to Amanda Burnell who has embedded the approach into her London school. I’m sure you’ll want to know your range of character strengths – try this free survey. And find out more about Positive psychology at the positivepsychologyprogram.

(Photo by Ethan Kent on Unsplash
Ethan and many others on Unsplash provide free, high quality photos for personal and commercial use. What virtues and character strengths do you think are present in this kind of transaction?)

Where to Speak 600,000 Words

bus inside

Which part of a bus is the most important? The engine? The driver? Wheels, brakes, fog lights? The passengers? No. It’s the Literacy Alcove.  The Literacy Alcove is usually towards the center, or at the front on the left. It normally has fold-down seats, is often filled with push chairs, babies, toddlers and their mums.  The buggy-baby-toddler-mum area. Where wheelchair users go too.

I propose that it’s here where a nation’s future is forged; where economic success is made or broken and where personal fulfillment begins.

Bold claims for a bit of a bus. Let me explain why:

I travel a lot. I choose public transport when I can, walk if it’s sunny and fly if I have to. I use buses a great deal. I see what goes on in the Literacy Alcove. Things like this: a mum and her baby boy get on. The baby is about 11 months old and strapped in a pushchair. He is big-eyed and alert. This is a bus for goodness sake; what’s not to get excited about. He’s looking around making eye contact with passengers, taking in the sounds, the colours, shapes, smells; seeking out something to connect with, something to learn, to do, to grasp. His brain must be crackling with electricity. He is full on ready to learn.

Mum parks the buggy so she can see him. She smiles, he smiles back. I’m anticipating a beautiful moment filled with the to and fro of a proto-conversation. Then mum takes out her phone, turns away and spends the rest of the journey on Facebook. Baby looks around for a while then zones out.

Sometimes you don’t see the first bit. The part where the buggy and its child get to face the mum. Once in a while the baby gets the phone and the mum pulls out another, bigger one. If you’re lucky (like I was this morning) nan gets on. She has her grandson for the day and there are no phones. I saw nan entertain baby for 20 minutes with a single bus ticket. She gave it to him and he scrunched it up, she straightened it out, then he examined it, licked it, flapped it, dropped it and waggled it. Then nan rolled it into a ball and played guess where it is. All the while talking to him and asking questions. Inspiring use of the Literacy Alcove.

More inspiring would be a bus company (First Bus, Arriva, whoever) that put poems and rhymes and songs there – instead of  serious lists of imperatives about buggies, wheelchairs and travel-based behavioral priorities. There could be books on strings, jolly cartoon characters talking and reading, big magnetic letters, textures, bells. A giant sensory alcove. Anything! Anything to get mums talking to their children. Lists of questions. Jokes. Funny pictures. Half finished sentences. Just something to start a conversation.

Some kids aren’t born with a silver spoon. Or any cutlery for that matter. They are poor in experience, opportunity and outlook (but not potential). They start school very much behind and many never catch up. One cause is scarcity of language in their first years. Some children start school with a 3000-story deficit and even the most effective teachers struggle to compensate.

We can fix this in the Literacy Alcove. Imagine a 20 minute journey taken 5 times a week for 40 weeks of the year. If mum speaks to baby for half that time at 100 words per minute, that’s 200,000 extra words a year. 600,000 more before they go to school. And that’s just in the bus.

First Bus, Arriva: free rides for mums who have a conversation with their child. The driver can check in her mirror. A fiver every time they sing a song to their baby. Vouchers for asking questions, pointing out interesting things. Rewards for language.

We can do the sums but I guarantee the cost of not doing this is more than fitting out every bus with a couple of posters and a book on a string.

Photo by Matteo Bernardis on Unsplash

Why You Must Lose Control of Your Class

neonbrand-426918-unsplash

You’ve Been There, Right?

Teachers – here are three classroom experiences that I truly hope you’ve had:

  1. The absolute-rock-bottom-I-have-nothing-left-in-my-toolkit-horror of being in front of a class as control slowly and surely slips from your fingers.
  2. The absolute ecstatic joy of finding the class fully engaged with the task you set them when you return from a 10-minute trip to the photocopier.
  3. The heartwarming, yet sometimes funny feeling of being called ‘mum’, ‘dad’, or even ‘nan’ by one of your pupils. Or all of them.

And why do I wish this (and other similar feelings) upon you? Because they’ll help us to think about effective learning relationships.

Horror, Joy & Humour

You really know the value of classroom relationships when they fall apart (see 1. above). I once had a Year 4 class. Tough kids; poor, wily, wiry, streetwise, emotionally honest and very big-hearted. But I didn’t see it. I didn’t spend time getting to know them – really getting to know them – as individuals or as a group.  The pressure was on for results; the focus on delivering content not developing connections. And so they slipped through my fingers. I tried valiantly to teach them how to spell instead of first teaching them how to care.

With my other classes I did take the time (see 2. above). Trust was there; mutual respect too, and a clear understanding of boundaries. We could do more and achieve more. When I left the room the children kept learning; they stayed on task. And from time to time they would make the slip of calling me ‘mum’. (I did once dress up as Widow Twanky for panto day but that is another story. With photos.)

Take the Time

Quality learning relationships underpin quality teaching and learning. But building them takes time – time which gets pinched by packed curricula and a relentless drive for publicly endorsed results. What if we took the time to get to know our pupils and helped them get to know each other? Do you think time invested like this would actually lead to more effective learning and better results? I believe it does. I know it does. It’s implicit in respected educational research. Relationships built well, build better learning. So how, with the future in our hands, should we develop quality learning relationships with, and between, our pupils; and with/between our colleagues?

Quality Relationships

An ongoing process for starting, developing and sustaining relationships:

  1. Get to know yourself;
  2. Get to know the other person;
  3. Communicate well; and
  4. Troubleshoot when needed.

And some suggestions for getting started:

  1. Know yourself. List three words that describe you; three things you like and three things you’ve learned in the last week.
  2. Know the other person. Find out three words that describe them; three things they like and three things they’ve learned in the last week.
  3. Communicate well. Share the above. Listen. Only think about what you are going to say next once the other person has finished speaking.
  4. Troubleshoot. When relationships break down it’s usually trust or communication in the spotlight. If things go wrong, seek help, own up, be honest, forgive, apologise, move on, learn.

So next time you feel rock-bottom-horror; ecstatic joy; heartwarming humour or any other feeling that’s linked to your educational relationships, ask yourself: What is this telling me about the quality of those relationships? How effective are they? What might I need to stop doing, start doing or simply continue doing to make them the best they can be?

(Thanks –  Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash)