One year of blogging…

I actually didn’t want anyone to find this blog when I first started writing it. To be honest, I just wanted a place to organise my thoughts about being a young teacher in England who was attempting to make sense of the complexity of the classroom. 

It’s now humbling to see that my blog is read in some places very, very far away (whoever you are in Zambia, Vietnam and the Phillpines you’re awesome – thanks for reading!).

My writing has definitely meandered through a range of topics in this first year. I began by giving tips to NQTs that I wish I’d known before my induction year. This was cathartic and important as I implicitly mapped out things I’d make sure I got right in the following year. I look back now realising I still know so little and must learn so much.

Once I’d done this, I set out to understand some essential classroom principles that I needed to master. I read loads. I just wanted to try and get beneath the surface of what I felt were the superficial scraps I had been fed during my PGCE. I wanted a deeper underpinning that went to the core of teaching expertise. In some ways, this is still at the heart of why this blog exists. 

What amazed me though, as I skimmed the literature on what makes great teaching, was the claim that the relationship that the pupil has with their teacher is the most important thing in improving educational outcomes for young people. This stunned me. I had to understand this first. I set out to find savvy new tricks and silver bullets that I could write about. Instead I found this claim repeatedly: relationships matter a lot in the classroom and cannot be defined to a technique. 

I tested this claim; I probed it and mined for morsels of insight into how to get better at this aspect of my practice. I wrote: How Important are Great Teacher/Student Relationships?, What makes great Teacher/Student relationships? and The Power of Warm Strict that attempted to collate my findings in a condensed form. These were profitable for myself and i’m pleased others have enjoyed them too. I look back now and I realise I barely scratched the surface.

Throughout this process of reading, reflecting and writing, I noticed that much of the techniques I’d been taught, had read about or had learned all stemmed from a few core teaching principles. Resting on the foundation of great teacher/student relationships, it is to theses principles that I will turn to in many more posts on this blog.

Interestingly, the top five posts that I’ve published this year have been:

  1. 3 ways to make sense of teaching mistakes

This post was written after being observed by some student teachers in my school. Some parts of the initial  first phase of the lesson were fine. The rest went very wrong. Writing this helped me to think through how to get better faster. I’m pleased that so many people enjoyed it.

2. On Defiant Behaviour

This is the second post i’ve written about behaviour (the first is here). I know I will write many more. It reflects on some of the issues that lurk beneath the surface of defiant behaviour. These ideas might not change what happens in practice but I think they are still worth considering.

3. 6 Features of Excellent Explanations

I wrote this as part of my focus on principles of expert teaching that I mentioned above. I read some interesting books before writing this. Namely, Making Every Primary Lesson Count, which I review here and Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. It tried to summarise what other bloggers have said about the principle in addition to my own thoughts.

4. Seating Students for Engagement

This post tried to dissect how the seating arrangements of a classroom can promote high levels of engagement in lesson time. Once again, I draw upon both research and other bloggers writing to make sense of how it would work in my own (primary) classroom.

5. Brilliant Books for Boys

I’ve been asked countless amounts of times by parents what books they should get their boys reading. Here, I reflect on my own reading journey and suggest some books I know lots of my male pupils have enjoyed. I am by no means a children’s literature expert neither is this list exhaustive. I do really like books though.

This coming year, after finishing my Masters, I hope to reflect on more of a variety of educational issues in more detail. Because of the topic and focus of my dissertation, I have had to hold back from getting involved in the knowledge/skills debate and curriculum design discussions going on. Yet, there is definitely some unfinished business where the underpinning principles of expert teaching come from that I really need to wrestle in to blog posts. In essence, I want to keep asking the question:

How then should we teach (in the everyday, complex classroom that we teachers inhabit)?

Finally, to all of my readers, I just want to say thank you for joining me on this journey so far. May there be many more.

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