Posts Tagged ‘Teacher Training’

The Bizarre Call to Train Teachers Specifically for Left-Handed Students

March 18, 2014


Oh dear! Just when you thought the discourse regarding education was getting rather strange, comes a most odd suggestion.

Apparently, because I haven’t been given specific training about teaching left-handed students, I am risking their self esteem. I wonder why people assume that teachers have an inability to apply common sense to the needs of their students:

Every teacher should be trained to recognise the needs of left handed children, a former minister has said.

Teacher training and the national curriculum should be overhauled so that children are given the space and “correct implements” to achieve the same results as right handed pupils, Peter Luff said.

The current lack of understanding is leaving the “self-esteem and self-worth” of left handed children at risk as they often end up struggling with right handed scissors or having cramped, illegible handwriting because teachers are unaware of their differing needs, he said.

The former Conservative defence minister said children were left feeling “clumsy and awkward” in the classroom and on the sports field and were not being able to reach their full creative potential.

Mr Luff has written to David Laws, the Schools minister, asking him to bring a simple set of guidelines into mandatory teacher training that takes into account the “slightly different needs” of those children who favour their left hand.

Mr Luff told The Telegraph: “If teachers are made to realise that someone is left handed, then maybe there are some things that they would want to do differently than for the rest of the class.

“Using left handed scissors, writing differently, having the mouse on the other side of the computer. In the sports room they could be taught how to use a bat or racquet in a better way.

“There are all sorts of small things which are terribly, terribly easy to put right – it’s just that teachers need to be told as part of their training to look out for those kind of kids and make sure their slightly different needs are addressed thoughtfully in the classroom.

Click on the link to read my post Why Professional Development for Teachers is Often Useless

Click on the link to read my post Finally, a Step Forward in Education

Click on the link to read my post Tips For New Teachers from Experienced Teachers

Click on the link to read, ‘Teachers Trained Very Well to Teach Very Poorly

Click on the link to read my post 25 Characteristics of a Successful Teacher

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Why Professional Development for Teachers is Often Useless

March 4, 2014



It is very rare that I come out of a day long or 2 day long professional development seminar feeling more adept at teaching than before attending. I commend Valerie Strauss for her criticisms of professional development, because many teachers feel the way she does, but few are game to admit it:

There has been a strong reaction to my recent post titled  ”A video that shows why teachers are going out of their minds,” which revealed Chicago teachers being led in a professional development session in which they sound like kindergarteners, repeating words in unison. Some commenters on the post defended the practice but most of the comments attacked it, revealing what is well known in the education world: Most professional development (PD) is lousy.

Though professional development for teachers is critical to their development as professionals, a 2013 report on PD by the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education noted that most teachers aren’t given the kind of professional development that would actually help them, and it called the most prevalent model of PD nothing short of “abysmal.” A summary of the report said:

Most teachers only experience traditional, workshop-based professional development, even though research shows it is ineffective. Over 90 percent of teachers participate in workshop-style training sessions during a school year (Darling-Hammond et al., 2009). This stands in stark contrast to teachers’ minimal exposure to other forms of professional development (Darling-Hammond et al., 2009). Despite its prevalence, the workshop model’s track record for changing teachers’ practice and student achievement is abysmal. Short, one-shot workshops often don’t change teacher practice and have no effect on student achievement (Yoon et al, 2007; Bush, 1984).

A summary of the report also noted that:

The reason traditional professional development is ineffective is that it doesn’t support teachers during the stage of learning with the steepest learning curve: implementation. In the same way that riding a bike is more difficult than learning about riding a bike, employing a teaching strategy in the classroom is more difficult than learning the strategy itself. In several case studies, even experienced teachers struggled with a new instructional technique in the beginning (Ermeling, 2010; Joyce and Showers, 1982). In fact, studies have shown it takes, on average, 20 separate instances of practice before a teacher has mastered a new skill, with that number increasing along with the complexity of the skill (Joyce and Showers, 2002).

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has gone so far as to say that the $2.5 billion in federal funds spent annually on professional development is largely a waste:

At the federal level, we spend $2.5 billion a year on professional development. As I go out [and] talk to great teachers around the country, when I ask them “how much is that money improving their job or development,” they either laugh or they cry. They are not feeling it. So as we fight for additional resources, we also have to be honest about that $2.5 billion investment, and the additional two or three billion dollars that states and districts are spending, to see what is necessary to really help teachers master their craft and hone their skills. I think the honest answer is that, in most places, we are not even close.


Click on the link to read my post Finally, a Step Forward in Education

Click on the link to read my post Tips For New Teachers from Experienced Teachers

Click on the link to read my post, Do experienced teachers give enough back to the profession?
Click on the link to read, ‘Teachers Trained Very Well to Teach Very Poorly

Click on the link to read my post 25 Characteristics of a Successful Teacher

Finally, a Step Forward in Education

February 19, 2014


I have been saying over and over again that something has to be done about the poor quality of teacher training. I have written to education ministers and tried to sell the message through this site, that improved teacher training was a must. Even though I was certain that an overhaul of our teacher training courses would bring immediate results, I felt that no politician would have the courage to even look at this area, let alone actively take the project on.

I am overjoyed to be proven wrong:

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne will announce on Wednesday a far-reaching review into teacher training in a bid to make education degrees less ”faddish” and ”ideological”.

Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven – a vocal opponent of minimum entry scores for teaching degrees – will chair an eight-member advisory panel to report to Mr Pyne by the middle of this year.

An eight-member ministerial advisory group will report by the middle of the year on how education degrees at universities can better prepare new teachers.

“There is absolutely no reason at all why Australia, as one of the wealthiest countries in the world … shouldn’t have the best teacher training in the world,” Mr Pyne told reporters in Adelaide on Wednesday.

“I want it to be more practical, I want them to have better experiences in the classroom rather than in universities and I want it to be less theoretical.”

Mr Pyne said the only way the federal government could influence teacher quality was by looking at university courses.

He suggested the standard was too low because very few people failed teaching degrees.

But he said imposing minimum entry scores for teaching degrees was a “blunt instrument” that would not guarantee quality.

Instead he wants the advisory body to have a particular focus on in-classroom training.

“My instinct is that the more a teacher is in the classroom learning on the job about how to teach people how to count and to read, the better,” he said.

Amen to that!

Click on the link to read my post Tips For New Teachers from Experienced Teachers

Click on the link to read, ‘Teachers Trained Very Well to Teach Very Poorly

Click on the link to read my post 25 Characteristics of a Successful Teacher

Click on the link to read my post 10 Important Tips for New Teachers

It is Refreshing When a Teacher Shows His ‘Human’ Side

January 12, 2014

On of the biggest issues I have with the current teacher training courses is the philosophy that teachers need to avoid emotional involvement with their students. To me, avoiding emotional involvement is akin to being emotionally distant. In University we were told not to smile in the first term of the year and we were warned that students are looking to befriend their teacher as a means of reducing their power and exploiting them.

This is of course complete rubbish. Teachers should be encouraged to connect with their students and should always make an effort to be approachable and easy to relate to. I couldn’t bear teaching if it meant I was unable to smile. And I may be naive, but I don’t see my students as schemers, but rather promising young individuals with a lot going for them.

I love the video above, because it reinforces the notion that a teacher can be respected for taking the time to connect with his students. Even if it makes him look a bit silly.

Click on the link to read my post Tips For New Teachers from Experienced Teachers

Click on the link to read my post, Do experienced teachers give enough back to the profession?
Click on the link to read, ‘Teachers Trained Very Well to Teach Very Poorly

Click on the link to read my post 25 Characteristics of a Successful Teacher

Click on the link to read my post 10 Important Tips for New Teachers

Tips For New Teachers from Experienced Teachers

October 9, 2013


Some brilliant advice courtesy of



Click on the link to read my post, Do experienced teachers give enough back to the profession?
Click on the link to read, ‘Teachers Trained Very Well to Teach Very Poorly

Click on the link to read my post 25 Characteristics of a Successful Teacher

Click on the link to read my post 10 Important Tips for New Teachers


10 Important Tips for New Teachers

September 2, 2013




Courtesy of Alex Quigley at

1. Expectation is everything. Call it a self-fulfilling prophesy or the ‘Pygmalion effect‘ – but it is simple common sense that the expectations a teacher has for their students has a huge impact upon how they will go on to perform. New teachers need to possess an infinite capacity for hope and optimism: despite the challenging students, the bad days at the whiteboard and the energy whittling workload. Such optimism helps us to retain high expectations in the face of such spirit-sapping salvos. Couple high expectations with both determination and perseverance and you have the qualities to survive and thrive in teaching.

2. ‘The Rule’: ‘No speaking when I’m speaking’. If one small ring can rule Middle Earth, then one simple rule can surely spread orderliness in our classrooms. Novice teachers often take for granted that students understand what we mean by the simple act of listening. They don’t. Show them what ‘active listening‘ looks like and feels like. Hold onto this one rule like a wild dog with lock-jaw. They need to listen to you and others – unequivocally. Explain, repeat and reiterate exactly why listening makes for successful learning. Expect it and demand it consistently.

3. Consistency is king. Good teaching is all about consistency. Forget about brass band parades that masquerade as outstanding lessons. Great teachers grind away at challenging learning; they have clear classroom rules and they use them consistently and with unstinting fairness. Students may not like your rules, or the challenge presented by your towering standards, but if you are consistent and relentless they will respect you. Execute your three Rs: relentless and rigorous routines. You can smile before Christmas (a smile is an excellent behaviour management tool) or whenever you like, just be consistent.

4. Focus on feedback. I will spare you the catalog of research, but feedback matters. It works. Formative assessment is the daddy, so ensure your written feedback is top notch (I have written a post with some tips here) and don’t forget how crucial oral feedback can be for developing the knowledge and understanding in every lesson (once more, I have a doc for that! See here).

5. Ask great questions. Sometimes even the best of teachers are distracted by shiny new teaching tools or the latest acronym driven craze to sweep the teaching nation. Effective teaching comes down to what effective teaching has been built upon since Socrates was busy corrupting the youth of Athens – great questions! We want students to hoover up knowledge and understanding and asking great questions lets us know exactly what they know and what they need to know. Probe and prize away at your little cherubs to help them succeed. This post of mine hopefully (my most popular) can give you a few further tips for great questioning – see here.

6. Know thy student. Relationships matter. In most classes many students spend hours with their teacher but they actually spend little time speaking directly to them. We need to develop our knowledge of students so that we can develop our relationships and best help them learn. As stated in tip 5, we need to know what they know and what they need to know. We also need to know the nuances of their character: who they work well with, why they are in a sleepy stupor when they should be slaving away, or what books they enjoy reading. Don’t be frightened of data. It helps. Own the data and don’t let it own you. All this information connects to successful learning. I won’t go into the nuances of differentiation and all that jazz, but that is about knowing your students too. The better we know the students in front of us the better we can help them learn. Simple.

7. Make lists. Make a list of your lists! Being an NQT can be a confusing storm of activity. Any given Monday can be a dizzying barrage of lessons, meetings, data management jobs etc etc etc. So make lists. Identify priorities on those lists (I suggest your lesson planning and marking are high on the priority agenda) and manage them as best you can. Allocate colour codes, timings, deadlines, or whatever helps you to get the job done.

8. Ask lots of questions. The best teachers were never the most assured novices. They were/are humble enough to know they need help and support. They ask lots of great questions. The seek out knowledge and ask politely for help. Don’t worry if your mentor or Subject Leader appear snowed under, it is their professional responsibility to guide you. Not asking questions will likely cause you and them more work and heartache in the long run!

9. Learn to say no. By all means get involved in the social life of the school. Build support networks, make friends and keep what is the crumbling semblance of a personal life, but also learn to say no. Being a new teacher is incredibly hard. Select a school trip perhaps, but don’t book a season ticket for such trips. Read a good book, but don’t look to run the book club. What you are aiming for is that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – a work/life balance. If you find it please let me know and we can share the patent!

10. Build a memory palace. This a cracking revision strategy for students – see here – but my version is one where you build a palace where you store rooms full of positive fragments from your novice teaching experiences. Those moments to actively remember are that make the crappy days tolerable. The moment diffident David bellows out an inspired answer like a modern day eureka, or when your resident hardened crim’ solves a quadratic equation or unpicks a Hamlet soliloquy. Place the small card at Christmas from the unassuming quiet kid on the mantle-piece of your memory palace. Remember and revisit the good stuff. The fragments we shore against our ruin. They make perseverance possible. They pave the pathway from novice to toughened expert.


I particularly like points 6 and 8.


Click on the link to read my post, Do experienced teachers give enough back to the profession?
Click on the link to read, ‘Teachers Trained Very Well to Teach Very Poorly

Click on the link to read my post 25 Characteristics of a Successful Teacher

Classroom Management is Getting Harder

March 24, 2013


Teacher training really falls flat when it comes to providing new teachers the practical tools to deal with the increasing difficulties of managing a class:

Teachers have warned that disruptive behaviour in classrooms has escalated sharply in recent years, as funding cuts to local services have left schools struggling to cope.

A survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) found that the vast majority of staff had recorded a rise in the number of children with emotional, behavioural or mental health problems.

The union collated numerous examples of challenging behaviour, ranging from violent assault to defamatory campaigns on social media.

Suggested reasons for the deteriorating behaviour include a lack of boundaries at home, attention-seeking, an absence of positive role models at home, low self-esteem and family breakdown.

The ATL, which has 160,000 members across the UK, said aggressive cuts to the traditional safety net of local services have left schools dealing with complex behavioural and mental health problems on their own.

Earlier this month it emerged that two-thirds of local authorities have cut their budgets for children and young people’s mental health services since the coalition government came to power in 2010. A freedom of information request by the YoungMinds charity found that 34 out of 51 local authorities which responded said their budgets for children’s and young people’s mental health services had been cut, one by 76%.

Alison Ryan, the union’s educational policy adviser, said: “Services are struggling for survival or operating with a skeleton staff, so there’s now a huge pressure on schools to almost go it alone. Schools are absolutely on the front line of dealing with these children and young people and trying to provide a service that means they don’t fall through the cracks.”

, general secretary of the ATL, said: “The huge funding cuts to local services mean schools often have to deal with children’s problems without any help.”

The survey of 844 staff found that 62% felt there were more children with emotional, behavioural and mental health problems than two years ago, with 56% saying there were more than five years ago. Nearly 90% of support staff, teachers, lecturers, school heads and college leaders revealed that they had dealt with a challenging or disruptive student during this school year. One primary school teacher in Cheshire said: “I have been kicked in the head, spat at, called disgusting names, told to eff off, had the classroom trashed regularly and items thrown. We accept children who are excluded from other schools so they come to us with extreme behaviour issues.”

A teacher in a West Midlands secondary school said: “One colleague had a Twitter account set up in front of him on a mobile called Paedo ****** [their name], which invited others to comment on him and his sexual orientation.”

Another teacher in a secondary school in Dudley added: “I’ve been sworn at, argued with, shouted at, had books thrown at me, threatened with physical abuse and had things stolen and broken.”

Bousted added: “Regrettably, teachers and support staff are suffering the backlash from deteriorating standards of behaviour. They are frequently on the receiving end of children’s frustration and unhappiness and have to deal with the fallout from parents failing to set boundaries and family breakdowns.”

On the positive side, most of the disruptive behaviour facing staff was categorised as fairly low level, with 79% of staff complaining that students talked in class, did not pay attention and messed around.

Some 68% added that students were disrespectful and ignored their instructions, 55% said they had dealt with verbally aggressive students, and a fifth with a physically aggressive student. Among secondary and sixth-form students, smoking was considered a significant problem.

On most occasions challenging behaviour was deemed an irritation which disrupted class work, according to 74% of staff, but 42% revealed that they suffered stress and almost a quarter said they had lost confidence at work. Forty of those questioned said they had been physically hurt by a student.

Click on the link to read The Dog Eat Dog Style of Education

Click on the link to read Problem Kids, Suspensions and Revolving Doors

Click on the link to read Useful Resources to Assist in Behavioural Management

Click on the link to read When Something Doesn’t Work – Try Again Until it Does

Where Have These So-Called “Master Teachers” Been All this Time?

July 19, 2012

I am very frustrated by the lack of investment from many of our “best teachers” in helping mentor their less experienced and less confident colleagues.

In a post in May, I raised the question – Do experienced teachers give enough back to the profession? I argued that these experienced teachers could be a vital resource for improving teacher quality.

It seems President Obama agrees:

President Barack Obama on Wednesday proposed a $1 billion program to recruit high-performing math and science teachers to mentor and evaluate their peers and help students excel.

The so-called Master Teacher Corps program calls for recruiting 2,500 such educators at the outset and increasing that to 10,000 over four years, paying them $20,000 stipends on top of their base salaries. Each teacher would be required to serve at least four years.

To help launch the program, the Obama administration has pledged to release $100 million already available to school districts that have made plans to develop and retain effective teachers of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the plan would raise the prestige of the profession and increase teacher retention.

I just wish experienced teachers could offer more voluntarily without having to be bribed to help with costly incentives.

Click on the link to read my post, Do experienced teachers give enough back to the profession?

Teachers Considered “Highly Qualified” After 5 Weeks of Training

July 18, 2012

Of course a student learning to become a teacher has not developed the skills to justifiably call themselves a “highly qualified” teacher. Sadly, with teacher training at such a poor standard, they could be studying for 5 years and it wouldn’t make much difference:

Today a U.S. House appropriations subcommittee will consider legislation that would allow students still learning to be teachers to be considered highly qualified teachers under federal law.

The nonprofit organization Teach for America places college graduates into high needs schools after giving them five weeks of training in a summer institute. The TFA corps members, who are required to give only a two-year commitment to teaching, can continue a master’s degree in education with selected schools while teaching.

Of course it doesn’t make any real sense that a new college graduate with five weeks of ed training or any student teacher should be considered highly qualified — because they aren’t. But federal officials inexplicably partial to Teach for America have bestowed millions of dollars on the organization, and TFA has, not surprisingly, lobbied Congress for this legislation.

The truth is, that 5 weeks of practical observation and teaching is far more beneficial that years of theory and mindless lectures.

Click on the link to read, ‘Teachers Trained Very Well to Teach Very Poorly

Why Our Schools are in Crisis

July 16, 2012

Xavier Symons wrote a compelling examination of our failing education system. He pinpoints three areas where things are going awry:

The first is student-oriented learning. Traditional teaching in which teachers provide a succinct overview of topics is an endangered species. Student orientated, interactive learning has almost completely displaced it.

Certainly, there are benefits: creativity, enthusiasm, research skills. But why not pour a bit of expert knowledge from the well into the bucket? My friends and I loved having a teacher who had just graduated from education school. Student-centred learning for us meant student rule. It was great fun. We just didn’t learn much.

The second problem is the obsession with IT literacy. Students know heaps more than most teachers about IT. X-Box and circumventing internet filters and downloading movies is child’s play for this generation.

IT literacy is like learning to ride a bike: you don’t need school. But essay writing skills? We did need a teacher for that. In the worst cases, students end up pooling ignorance in meandering discussions, and scratching their heads in bewilderment.

As a high school student, I built and produced pictorial essays using film software. Some of my friends made mind maps on smart boards and podcast radio plays. The latest fad is educational games on iPads.

I certainly became IT literate. But it was at the expense of English proficiency and knowledge of history. I had a lot of fun doing a pictorial essay about the Vietnam War – but I I never learned why the French were there in the first place.

While IT literacy is very important in the digital age, the bread and butter of the humanities remains grasping and describing human experience and human history.

The third problem is uniformed teachers. Too many leave uni knowing the bare minimum, and never try to delve deeper. Many of my peers have found that their history teacher knows no more than the textbook. Alarmingly many teachers of English literature don’t actually read. And science teachers may be able to entertain a classroom by emphasising the practical aspects of biology, but students will be seriously underprepared come exams.

I have given my opinion on each of his three points:

Click here to read my opinion of ‘child centered learning’ vs ‘teacher centered learning’.

Click here to read my opinion on the problem with IT in the classroom.

Click here to read my opinion on the standard of teacher training.


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