Teaching is a profession known for the challenges faced. Those challenges can be related to classroom behaviour, exam pressures, funding and budget issues amongst many other factors. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has brought new and additional challenges to all professions, businesses and occupations – not excluding teaching.
There are many challenges currently facing the teaching profession, some specific to the UK others that are global. Problems include funding, recruitment and retention of teachers, workload and well-being plus more. Despite these undeniable issues I also think it is a very exciting time to be a teacher. I suggest this because of professional learning. There are now methods of professional learning and development that did not exist previously. Teachers are embracing professional learning and are able to take ownership of their own development and interests through a variety of strategies.
The NUT (National Union of Teachers) states that “Teachers’ workload is currently far too high and surveys show that recently qualified teachers work longer hours than their more experienced colleagues.” Clearly, this is not acceptable but fortunately there appears to be a movement recognising and tackling this problem. No one wants to see teachers, especially enthusiastic and optimistic NQTs, suffering from exhaustion and burn out caused by excessive and unnecessary workload. It can take years for some teachers to find the right balance in their life between work and home life. Sadly, some teachers never find the balance and leave the profession as a result. However, managing workload can be a skill that teachers can get better at, especially with the right support. Hindsight is a wonderful thing as they say. There are some experiences that teachers have to experience for themselves and learn from, for example we can reflect on a lesson that we didn’t feel went well and do things differently next time or ask why the lesson plan didn’t actually go to plan as we hoped for? However, there are lots of experienced teachers, myself included, who are willing to share their stories and offer advice to support NQTs and other educators from repeating mistakes we made. Here’s some advice I have to offer …
I didn’t fully engage with educational research at the start of my career but in recent years it has transformed my teaching practice and further built my confidence in the classroom. As a trainee teacher I was told that educational research informed us about VAK learning styles and the idea of the learning pyramid! This so-called research is now better known by many in education as edu-myths, theories that have been debunked because they are not supported by the science and research as initially claimed. This post isn’t about debunking myths but if that is something you are interested in then I can highly recommend the work of Pedro De Bruyckere, Paul Kirschner and visiting the popular blog by US educator Blake Harvard.
Last month, December 2018, I was very fortunate to visit Hong Kong. This trip was a combination of work and leisure. I was presenting at the Asia-Pacific International Schools Conference (known as AISC) and the timing of the conference was perfect as it was at the end of the winter term at my school here in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi. Therefore after the conference, I was able to spend a week exploring Hong Kong – it was my first time visiting Hong Kong. I absolutely loved it, both the conference and the sightseeing. I wanted to share and reflect on my trip.
I’ve recently just completed writing my first book! It has been a long and at times challenging process but also very enjoyable and exciting. Love To Teach: Research and Resources for Every Classroom is due to be published next month with John Catt Education – you can pre-order it on Amazon here. Anyway, this blog post is about reading not writing but a large part of the process of writing my book involved reading and engaging with educational research. Even before I decided to write a book I was reading a lot of books about education, linked to my subject specialism, pedagogy, leadership, literacy and much more. I read a very interesting article in The Guardian by teacher and author Carl Hendrick suggesting ten educational books that he believes all teachers should read. I started to make my way through the list suggested by Carl Hendrick (I have yet to read Daisy Christodoulou 7 Myths and Trivium 21C despite their popularity!). Inspired by this list I have created my own list with my favourite books linked to education. I am very aware there is a lack of diversity amongst the books I have selected. There are many wonderful female authors that I can highly recommend such as Mary Myatt, Jill Berry, Debra Kidd, Sarah Findlater and Nina Jackson. This list was based purely on my favourite books linked to education but I am aware the majority of the books below are written by men. This is the list of my favourite books and I believe every book deserves its place in my top spot list.
In August 2016 I became one of the estimated 100,000 qualified British teachers who for some reason or other ditch the drizzle in the UK to teach abroad. After a holiday to Dubai during the February half term, I made the decision to start applying for jobs in the United Arab Emirates, this was a very big change for me a village girl who had only taught in one school for six years so very daunting but also very exciting!
I discovered a quote by Jennifer Gonzalez where she interviewed Cognitive Scientist Pooja Agarwal “Retrieval practice: The most powerful learning strategy you’re not using” (you can listen to the podcast interview here) and this resonated with me because it wasn’t a strategy I was using for many years during my teaching career. Teachers often have so much content to get through that little time can be spent revisiting prior learning and subject content previously covered – I was guilty of this. Each lesson or week I would work my way through delivering new content on the specification or scheme of work and return to recall knowledge and understanding at a much later date. On reflection, it seems obvious that revisiting a topic 12 months later (or longer!) in the classroom just before the exam won’t be as effective as regular recall and retrieval.
Twitter is (or can be) a wonderful source of networking, sharing, discussion, debate and learning. There are so many communities on Twitter. I was quite oblivious to most of these communities as I have been in my own Twitter bubble with the wonderful “EduTwitter” community. There are even smaller communities within the EduTwitter community – such as WomenEd, BameEd, Edtech, leadership and subject-specific groups such as the History teacher community. These online communities are not exclusive and everyone is free to read what others share ( private accounts can restrict who can view their profile).
Today the public vote has gone live for the UK Blog Award nominations with the winner to be announced in 2018. I am absolutely delighted to have been nominated for the second year ( I don’t know who nominated me but thank you!). Winning is always lovely but I’m so pleased to be recognised and nominated! You can vote for my blog to win here: