<![CDATA[The Primary Teacher's Blog - Blogs ]]>Tue, 13 Mar 2018 07:47:52 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[The Class Evolution]]>Sat, 03 Jan 2015 15:46:54 GMThttp://primary1teacher.com/blogs/the-class-evolutionThis blog has come about because this September the class I received have had the most varied styles of teaching I can think of. I have them now in Year 5. Their Year 4 teacher was your classic, 'Knowledge is everywhere, collaborative, pupil freedom, self-taught, learning spaces, teacher sitting with pupils', I would say a Robin Williams reincarnate. Their Year 3 teacher was a cross between Mr Smith in The Substitute and Mr Strickland from well, every generation of that family. Quiet rows, teachers have knowledge, rote and repetitive, text-book, standing at the front. Their teacher in Year 2 was as close to Sister Marie Therese Vauzous as you can get away with these days. She even has the same voice and mannerisms, I'm sure you can see the running jokes we enjoy. I haven't been at this school long enough to know their reception teacher but I currently work with the person they had in Year 1 and he can be described as nothing less than Jack Black in The School of Rock, no need to explain what that year consisted of. The interesting combination of children playing electric guitar and a series of drums has been sending my face into a amusing array of expressions - to the delight of my class.

This brings me to the point of the blog. Is it best for a class to have one style of teaching, one style of education, the same level of discipline or the same lack of discipline, all the way through their primary school years or is best for them to experience a variety?

The classes I have taught before have never had teachers with such a variety of clear cut styles. I never even thought it was possible to get such a variety until I worked at my current school. I thought it was consigned to film-fiction, hence being able to quote from several completely different films. Of course most schools have their few characters, mostly geriatric traditionalists drinking out of Miss Trunchbull mugs in the corner of the staff-room. Answering the slightest questioning of their oracle with a Professor Crawford's "Are you challenging me?" On the flip side, every school has their resident teacher living in the Crusade-era of Poitler's East London mission. Regardless of these characters, most teachers I have worked with are a hybrid of styles, nothing too clear cut but a sort of solid style that works to the ebb and flow of the educational tide.

Joking aside, having a set of children that have had teachers with such clear cut styles, a powder-keg of educational influence, makes for brilliant reflection.

Having worked with this class for a term, getting to know and understand a class who seem to have had their own Dead Poets Society last year it has had the most profound influence on my assumptions. A primary school class is a being, it evolves in the most incredible way possible. Children have such an adapt curiosity that they can almost, in a Stockholm Syndrome manner, learn to love whatever is put in front of them. It is the very nature of having a teacher for a whole year. I ask the question: does that constant change of style and teacher have positive or negative connotations? I would say that it makes the children versatile. They learn that society is made up of different people with different backgrounds and different manners and styles. They learn how to behave with various types of people. They don't have 7 Years of falling asleep into a textbook, nor do they have 7 Years of thinking about fairies. I want to work in a school where I know every new class I get have experienced as much of a variety as you can conceivably get in a school. I want to get a class that makes me want to change the way I do things or confirms that I'm doing this the right way. I want to be challenged by the complex being that is a class. I want the previous class to have experienced hiding a secret rock band from the headteacher's learning walks. I want them to live a year in a class with a row-walking, no-talking, chalk throwing, just a plain old capital shock of a teacher. Even better if they have been taught an artistic talent so realistic they can draw a derogatory picture of me under the desk while my back is turned. If the class hasn't experienced Mrs Strict then I consider they just haven't lived. I want a class to have known special teachers who could teach in a way that they believed in. 

The only way this works is if people are given the trust, freedom and independence to truly teach the way that suits them. Nothing makes for a terrible year more than having a teacher who is day-in day-out compromising on their principles or teaching in a way that doesn't feel right. You get a teacher who is trying to be all things to all people and they constantly compromise to incorporate: current policies, their background, their own ideas on parenting, experiences in their own schooling, the school's 'changing with the wind' policy, the new curriculum and debate on the style you should be this lunar month. Teachers move away from a natural, personal and passionate style to ticking boxes and making sure they appear the way they should. Children get mixed messages about the way people are and the way adults conduct themselves.

I want to see a change. I want to see the climate change to one that values diversity of everything. New teachers and old teachers. Progressive and traditional teachers. Teachers who dress up as Indiana Jones and teachers who get mistaken for Mary Poppins. If we can bring a wider diversity of styles to schools and give teachers the trust and freedom to professionally deliver, I believe we can nurture versatile and resilient children. Children who value that everyone is different, even teachers.  

<![CDATA[To memorise or not to memorise ]]>Wed, 31 Dec 2014 14:13:04 GMThttp://primary1teacher.com/blogs/to-memorise-or-not-to-memoriseThe end of the term has given me enough time to reflect on something we tried in our literacy lessons. Using exactly the same topic as last year I am able to compare the impact of certain aspects.

We incorporated a lot of memorising, a lot of role-play and combined them into a heavily drama orientated programme of study. The impetus for doing this was aspects of the new primary curriculum programme of study for year 5 and 6. The outline is as follows:  

Year 2 Programme of Study
"..continuing to build up a repertoire of poems learnt by heart, appreciating these and reciting some, with appropriate intonation to make the meaning clear."

Year 3 and 4 Programme of Study
"...preparing poems and play scripts to read aloud and to perform, showing understanding through intonation, tone, volume and action
recognising some different forms of poetry."

Year 5 and 6 Programme of Study
"...learning a wider range of poetry by heart."

We wanted to see whether memorising parts of a difficult text, acting them out and just generally allowing the pupils to experiment with language would improve their ability to relate to difficult concepts, themes and a generally difficult style.

We decided to dedicate 2 out of the 5 lessons every week for this purpose. One of the lessons would allow the pupils to text-mark selected passages and choose the parts they want to act out. They would learn them with their partner. Often they would learn the lines that evening. The second lesson would be input on expression, acting etc. and every group would perform their piece (unaided) to the class.

That was the plan. I'm fortunate enough to work at a school that allows freedom of this kind and I was able to do this for the whole of the Autumn Term. I could have covered this particular aspect of the new curriculum with a few lessons and a few poems learnt, of course that is true. However, memorising texts, poems and dramatising them is not something I have ever dedicated much time to in my own teaching and I thought I should give the whole thing a try. Therefore, I had to make sure I gave it enough contact time to have an impact.

I could overload you with quotes from famous people on how memorising things is bad or I could roll out the argument about the Google generation having everything at their fingertips but I never like to accept anything until I have experimented it on my own classes. However, I particularly like the following quote:

We are students of words: we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation-rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

So I shall be waiting for ten or fifteen years when I'll have scores of my ex-pupils wanting my head for wasting their time. However until that time I shall enjoy committing them to my 'recitation rooms'.

Positive Outcomes:-

- Pupils enjoyed having the freedom that the 2 lessons provide

- Pupils enjoyed the partner work

- Pupils liked having the time to understand difficult passages, not having the teacher explain them.

- Pupils liked the challenge of memorising, regardless of what it was.

- Phrases and words appearing in their writing in the correct context

- I was able to see the pupils bring the text or poem alive and assess their understanding

- It gave me the freedom to circulate the groups and work with different pairings.

- There was less pressure of outcome and more enjoyment during the lessons.

Negative Outcomes:-

- Often the pupils would memorise without understanding the passage

This was addressed by getting the pupils to perform an interpretation of the words, either a modern interpretation, introduce different characters, change the words into their own but still memorise them. I found a good trick: pupils had to include passages that had no words at all and act out the concepts and themes. This meant they had to understand the words completely. If pupils couldn't do this, they would soon make you aware of it and you could work with them on the language or other elements.

- Justifying the time to middle leaders or senior management

For the first term, before any evidence could be produced, it was difficult to justify doing this. I just made sure they regularly came to visit during the sessions and saw that the pupils were experimenting with language. It was difficult to persuade them that I didn't need to put evidence for the sessions in the books. I am glad I was able to as this would have trashed the whole concept. Once a steady flow of writing was produced it was clear that the pupils had understood particular themes or concepts in the text and they were using language effectively and in the correct context. They were able to take on writing in a certain style very well and this certainly came through. Comparing their writing to my previous class, comparing the difference in using learnt words, phrases or lines, as I believe that's the only part I can compare, it is clear there has been a positive impact.

I was happy to bring a freedom, yet focus, to the programme of study for the Autumn term. It was something different and it certainly suited the texts we were studying. I will be using its format again for texts that I feel need it. Luckily this time I have the evidence to prove its worth. Is it any better than normal role-play? I don't know the answer to that, all I know is that learning different parts of the texts and having to understand the characters, feelings and motives to be able to learn it, was powerful and it impacted their writing significantly.

Do I believe in pupils memorising? I believe in it when it is purposeful in allowing pupils the freedom and independence to explore language. I don't, however, believe in 'recitation rooms'. I have almost always found that a combination of different styles of teaching yields the best results and I would encourage schools to give teachers the freedom to experiment and trust them to do it.

<![CDATA[Groups - Where art thou focus?]]>Sat, 04 Oct 2014 13:58:58 GMThttp://primary1teacher.com/blogs/groups-where-art-thou-focusI've been thinking recently about the way I use focus groups in my teaching. I've been thinking about the way I give quality time to each and every child and the way in which I get to know my pupils at the start of the year. I came to the conclusion that it was time for focus groups to take a ride -  I'll explain why.

Until this year I have followed a reasonably standard format. The pupils would engage in their activity, I would take a different group for each day of the week. This would ensure every pupil had time with me (in their group) every week. I would sometimes mark that groups books with them there, giving them feedback and next steps. The remaining 24 pupils would complete their activity and I would look at their books at the end of the day. The remaining 24 pupils would be relatively unsupervised in their learning. I might perhaps leave my focus group to circulate a few times, but other than that, they would be left to independent learning.

I didn't feel happy with focus groups. Sometimes the focus group I had was just there so I could say I'd seen all the pupils that week. Often they just wanted to get on with the activity. I most definitely felt my time was better spent using a different strategy. I wanted a strategy that allowed me to have the freedom and flexibility to target my time where it was needed and for as little or long as it was needed. Focus groups were too rigid, inflexible and often pandering to box ticking. I decided it was time to scrap them.

The way my lessons normally go is I let them start the learning or activity straight away with little or no input from me. I then let the lesson take its natural course, adapting it to the needs of my class. I prefer to target children on an individual basis and give them 1 or 2 minutes individual time with me. Often, this is all they need and they can carry on and complete the rest independently. If they get stuck again, another piece of concentrated time from me is given, and so on. Different children will find parts challenging at different times, they will require different inputs and for different lengths of time. By fluidly cruising around the classroom, this gives me the freedom and flexibility I desire. Once I recognise similar difficulties occurring, I have the flexibility to stop the class, give input or get pupils to share skills and strategies. The class will then resume. This is the intervention marking strategy.

It worked very well for me. However, the school still wanted focus groups. I had to think how I could merge focus groups and intervention marking. The planning required a focus group to be written down for each lesson. I looked at the strategy of fluid focus groups where you select 3/4 pupil struggling on the same area of learning, bring them together on a table and give them focused time, sending them back afterwards to carry on. This makes a lot of sense. However, my goal of giving time to every child individually was lost. I would still have to show I got around every child each week. I would end up pulling pupils to my focus table when they really didn't need, nor wanted to. It was rigid focus groups in all but name.

As a result, I am still on the hunt. I am sure successful ideas are out there, I just haven't looked hard enough so if you do know of any, please leave a comment and let me know. Until that day, I'll be trying different strategies in the coming weeks, trying to achieve the goal that:  

In every lesson, the whole class will be my focus group.

<![CDATA[Child-led Masterclass]]>Sat, 20 Sep 2014 16:28:37 GMThttp://primary1teacher.com/blogs/child-led-masterclassChild-led Masterclass

Following a good response from people regarding the way I teach guided reading in my classroom (See here for details) I thought I would blog about a strategy I use in lessons called 'The Masterclass'.

I'll quickly explain why I came to change the way I taught lessons. Our school follows the starter/main/plenary format. Even though it's not called the numeracy hour, it has effectively deviated little from those days. Every lesson requires a starter. The rationale behind it is to get the pupils warmed up, brains engaged and ready to go on the main learning objective. I found this rigid, boring and lacking in purpose. If you've read any of my other blogs you might have picked up that I think flexibility and freedom to be crucial to my own ability to teach well. I wanted to come up with a way to get the pupils warmed up and engaged but move away from often detached starter activities; I wanted to make the start of my lessons child-initiated.

I came up with 'The Masterclass'. I'll use an example of a maths lesson involving measuring. Pupils will begin the lesson looking at the learning objective. Pupils will then state the skills they think the class will need in order to access the learning. They might choose: conversions, using a ruler, addition, subtraction. Five or Six children will then choose one of the skills generated, that they feel comfortable teaching, and go to their own table. The rest of the children will decide the skill they need to recap, learn again or just practice and go to the table.

What it looks like is one child taking a lesson with around 5/6 children around them. The child will take the role of the teacher and give a 5/10 minute demonstration and practise session for their group. During these 5/10 minutes, the class teacher will circulate, provide feedback, questioning and modelling - where required.

I'll use the example of a pupil in my class deciding to run a Masterclass for using a ruler. They announced they felt confident enough to teach to their peers. They got 5/6 rulers from the resource drawer and some whiteboards and pens and went to a spare table. Six pupils then decided they need to practise using a ruler (the rest of the pupils went to other skills) and they gathered around the Masterclass teacher. The Masterclass teacher then gave them all a ruler. The Masterclass teacher then spent a minute or so explaining the ruler, where to begin from and how to use the lines to measure. They then drew some lines on the whiteboards and got the pupils to measure the line and write down the length of it. After a few minutes of this, the Masterclass teacher then took some of the whiteboards and checked to make sure they were right, using questions to ask the others if they agreed. After 10 minutes, I bought all of the Masterclass sessions to an end and we all came back and engaged in the next part.

I don't use this strategy in every single lesson as some lessons don't lend themselves well to it. Therefore flexibility is the key to this working properly. I probably use it for 3 in every 5 sessions. The way this is introduced in the beginning is by the class teacher modelling picking out the skills needed from the learning objective (This is very commonplace in schools now anyway, children have become quite adapt at doing this) The teacher will model running a 'Masterclass'. They will model how to teach the skill in a few minutes, provide the children with adequate time for practise and then ask questions on how they managed. This format of teaching is also very common and it is incredible how good children are at this as they've been used to it during their primary education. This Masterclass doesn't even have to be at the beginning. You can stop the class and say, "I think we need to improve on X skill, can I have 6 people to run Masterclasses?" Do that for 10 minutes and get back to the lesson. It has to be flexible and most importantly, it has to work for the lesson.

Benefits of using this strategy

·       Children identify skills needed for their own learning

·       Children assess their own ability to be able to teach something to their peers

·       Children have to opportunity to teach a skill and in thinking about the different ways to explain it and             help their class mates, they embed the skill themselves

·       Children are empowered when teaching and gain in confidence

·       Lessons move away from a 'one size fits' all starter and breaks into different skills

·       Children decide the skill they need to practise themselves. They make conscious decisions about                 where they are in their own learning and how they can help themselves to achieve today's learning               objective.

·       Children get the opportunity to listen to their peers more often

·       Children get the opportunity to work with children they might not otherwise work with

·       The starter becomes about the journey of the learning objective and not a standalone starter.

·       It can be adapted to any learning

Problems of using this strategy

·       Some children become disempowered when they are unable to teach skills

This requires some thought from the teacher. The way I get around this is by using the Masterclass in different areas of the curriculum - especially in areas I know different children are good in.

·       Making sure children make a choice about what they need to practise as opposed to the group with their friends in.

I've made it an important part of this strategy to focus on how this will improve their learning and for the children to use this as an opportunity to progress. I've had to model how to make the right decision of group and how not to choose the group with your friends in it or teaching it.


·       Making sure the groups are on-task

This is one of the most important ones and it requires similar practice to my guided reading sessions. Once the pupils become familiar with the system and once they have themselves taught a session, they all have an appreciation for leading. I use feedback sessions to highlight what being a good Masterclass pupil is like. Some pupils might not be happy with another pupil leading and become disinterested, if this happened, I would deal with it like it was during my own teaching. The pupils quickly understand the benefits of this strategy compared to starters and generally behave and engage well.


·       Pupils not having any skills they need to improve or practice

In the planning stage, I make sure there is enough challenge in the learning objective so that this rarely happens. On the occasions I've got the pitch wrong I get those children to run a Masterclass on how they could extend the learning objective. For the example of the measures lesson. A child decided to run one on working out volume and how to measure volume of interesting spaces, for example: the volume of the classroom. I have found that once the children start thinking about the skills and learning needed for your lesson objective, they can come out with some interesting and brilliant things to teach. Giving them the flexibility and freedom to do so is important and once they recognise this they will be more motivated to push the Masterclass boundaries.


·       Children not knowing which Masterclass sessions to go to


This was common at the start. After a few weeks of doing this, most children were able to identify what they could work on. If there are any children who don't know, I take them myself. I don't run a Masterclass session, I help the children think about their own learning. What do they need to practice? What skills does the learning objective require you to use? For some of these children, just reflecting on what they already know or don't know is a big step. A few children took 3 months to be able to engage in this strategy properly, once they did, they benefited from learning the skill of reflection.

·       The noise

The classroom management side of this strategy made me worried to begin with. I use the same policy for my guided reading. In any group, there can only be one person talking at once. This might work out to be 6 people in the whole class talking at any one time, this can still make it quite noisy. I used a miming technique. If a group is being too noisy, their Masterclass teacher has to mime the teaching for a minute or so. This way they appreciate the volume of their own voices.


·       What if the skills require resources

Normally, these resources would be things you'd have for the lesson anyway so it shouldn't require a considerable amount of gathering. You could take some time to think about the skills they might decide and arrange some things they could use, but I find this adds to your workload and takes away from the pupils running it. It's much better if they come up with ways to teach it themselves.

I've done this for the past two years now and it has worked well for me. I prefer to move away from the unnecessary structure of a starter at the beginning of every lesson. I prefer to use strategies that are child-led and purposeful. It has good scope as well, once children can take groups, they can take parts of lessons and so on and so forth. This is a great way to turn your class from a room full of learners, into a room full of teachers. 

<![CDATA[First impressions - How important are they really?]]>Sun, 31 Aug 2014 19:13:01 GMThttp://primary1teacher.com/blogs/first-impressions-how-important-are-they-reallyReally...how important are first impressions?

Perhaps you're up late before your first day because you're busy finishing off the last drop of that good-luck-in-your-new-job whiskey. Perhaps you're making the finishing touches to the batch of 50 Marry Berry's Cupcakes you're going to give the staff. But perhaps you're thinking: What if my first day goes wrong?'

If you read this and have done all of these things then I give you permission to implode. However, before you do so consider your worth to educational science - you marvel!


I'm up early, trying to imagine why on earth I thought drinking last night was a good idea. Settling your nerves you say? Well don't worry, I heard that in every school there's a weekly AA meeting in the head teacher's office - ask them for details.

I look in the mirror. Is this a good time to be working out the definition of 'smart-casual'? It's only an INSET day after all, as long as I look better than the caretaker, I'm sure no one will notice. Shall I eat breakfast? Well, I'll look a little silly if I can't finish the welcome cake from the rest of the staff, I better give it a miss.

I think to myself, today is the start of a brand new future. New job. New attitude. I'm going to eat healthier and exercise more! Well then today should be the day I start cycling to work. If you don't get off to a good start you'll never end up doing it. Better leave early, give myself enough time to work out the directions en route.

Now...if the sun is over there then I must be going...in circles. I better get my phone out. "Ah great" It's out of battery. I knew I shouldn't have been scanning my Twitter feed for NQT horror stories to make myself feel better. Simple. "I'll ask in a shop." - I'm full of such great ideas, no wonder I became a teacher. I rush in. I pant in query. At the mention of the word 'school' they give me a worried look as if to say 'Thank god I didn't send my child to that local school'. Think. "I've got my charger!" Seriously now genius, save some of that brainpower for the CPD tidal wave INSET.

The phone has enough charge. Got clear directions on google maps. I can't help but think how people coped before mobile phones. Better get those 'brand new future' legs on, time's racing.

Bike. Bike. Bike. When they told me during teacher training to get to know the local area I did not think they meant a crime survey. Was I really in there that long? I mean it was only a couple of 'Top 10 things not to do on your first day' blogs. Think. Think. Think. I just read the most important thing is not to be late. I can't be late. It's just not the model practitioner I am. Run. Ok it's the first day of my new regime, I'll jog. Blimey these cupcakes are heavy, I'll walk fast.

If I don't change into my smart-casual clothes I can just about get in on time. I used to rock up in my gear during placement anyway so I'm pretty much a pro at the cycling look. Although I can't remember the sweat coming through my t-shirt quite like this. There just simply isn't any time. Walk up to reception (by now the fast walk is an all but distant memory.) I better check my 'First impressions checklist' while I'm going through the corridors. Ah I forgot I used that to try and get the shop keeper to write a map. Never mind, I pretty much knew it off by heart anyway. All I'm worried about is how long they've been waiting in the dark ready to surprise me and welcome me to the school. They'll wait a little longer, I got an outstanding on my 2nd placement after all.

I take one step into the hall. The eyes of a thousand disappointed teachers. Not disappointed at the INSET, disappointed at me, they must have got tired waiting and thought the fresh perspective I'm bringing would never come. As I walk further in, their faces become deeply perplexed. How can they be quizzical? I did 3 weeks in the school before the summer holidays. Don't scratch your head, I observed your maths lesson. Rolling your eyes at me? I saw the lack of differentiation in your starter! Why are you looking at my bare legs like that? At least I can engage in modelling during my gymnastics lessons. The staff just aren't who I thought they were. What a shame, we spent so much time together. Doesn't matter at least the head teacher has a smile on her face! Must be the great chats we had during my interview. I had so much to say about being able to cope with the workload of my first placement or how changed I was after an SEN lecture during university. I must have been inspiration incarnated.

I smile back at the head. I think we know each other enough to use the nickname I came up with over the holiday. But I wonder if the other staff would be jealous of our bond. Perhaps I shouldn't I would hate to give them a reason to dislike me on my first day. However much of a strength it was identified as being, I better stop reflecting on everything. I've not even got to the spare chair the head has left me at the front. My cheeks have barely touched the seat when the head says...

"Nice of the..." looking down at my body in lycra "Nice of the N.....QuTie to arrive on time." The room rumbles with giggles. I can't believe it, this is the scenario in all of those blogs I read on the way here. Last ditch attempt. Harness the power of Marry Berry and offer those lemon cakes. I rattle open the tin, point it towards the head and reveal Marry Berry's Eton Mess.

<![CDATA[what makes a good guided reading lesson?]]>Thu, 28 Aug 2014 20:50:47 GMThttp://primary1teacher.com/blogs/guided-reading-a-love-for-readingMethods for Teaching Guided Reading

In trying to understand the best methods for teaching guided reading I ended up doing a lot more research than I had intended. As a result I have had to make that research an entirely different blog. It can be read here. I would love of course for you to read it completely, but I will attempt to summarise the research into the practical ways in which guided reading might be seen in our classrooms.

I have also provided the way I teach guided reading - The Book Club. I have trialled it for a complete year now with my year 5 class but I have also used The Book Club for one term with Year 2 and with year with a year 3 class. I would be very interested in completely honest feedback of my method, especially if you use a similar model in your own school.

A Good Guided Reading Lesson

There are common trends for all guided reading sessions: most are every day and for about 20-30 minutes. The most common guided reading sessions will have ability groups. Groups are may well be dynamic; they might change in response to assessment and student need; the intention is that they are flexible and fluid. The teacher will work with a different group one day of the week, thereby getting to work with each group once.

When working with that group the teacher will:

·       Match student reading ability to text levels giving everyone in the group the same text. The books aren't matched to 'ability' but matched to making progress.

·       Introducing students to skills in their reading processes: word solving, searching for and using information, self-monitoring and correcting, summarizing information, maintaining fluency, adjusting for purpose and genre, predicting, making connections (personal, other texts, and world knowledge), synthesizing, inferring, analyzing, and critiquing.

·       Assessment - The teacher will observe and make notes while students read

·       Introduction—Ask students to examine the book to see what they notice. Support students guiding themselves through a preview of the book and thinking about the text. Students may notice the book’s format or a particular element of the print.

·       Reading practice—Rotate from student to student supporting the child if they get stuck on words or points of comprehension either through questioning or peer-support.  

·       Discussion—Let students talk about what they noticed while reading. Support their efforts to think deeply and connect across the whole book. For example, a student may notice that an illustration opening the text shows ingredients in a pantry, and at the end, they are all over the kitchen.

The students not working with the teacher will often be working on differentiated activities. Normally a follow-up activity for the group that was with the teacher the day before. Perhaps if you have the resources, a teaching assistant might work with another group. Groups often complete comprehension activities, spellings, handwriting practise, use technology (even using blogging and Skype is popular), Students might reflect on the reading (Book review, wanted poster for a character, create their own endings, middles and beginnings). A wide variety of activities are possible and they often focus on skills, mostly in the form of consolidation. This can be a lot of work for the teacher, differentiating so many ways for each session is exhausting and as a result you might have a coloured timetable so that some overlapping of activities make your life easier. A group doing 'free reading' whereby they read any book of their choice for pleasure is a good slot that achieves the goal of 'freedom of choice' for the student and less work for the teacher.

The underlying classroom management strategy of guided reading is that you have to work exclusively with your guided group, attention to them is very important to the whole process, as a result the independent activities are, in short, ways of crowd-controlling the rest of the class. There is a push for those activities to be extremely progress driven. You often question the purpose of some of the activities. From my own experience, you wonder where on earth your students are getting a lifelong love of reading from. In KS2, the books tend to be quite long and you can't get through them in one session. Therefore, they overlap into several guided reading sessions. What can often happen is, they read with you on the Monday, follow-up activity on the Tuesday, Free read on Wednesday, Grammar activity on Thursday and Comprehension on Friday. It's a week before they get back to reading the book. I've certainly forgotten what's happened, the students are positively unmotivated and disinterested.

Sometimes teachers might allow time each day for students to read their guided reading book. This is a good idea, but it moves away from aiding students' development of skills in reading and just becomes a free read. They read at different speeds and you end up with students at completely different points. Some teachers allow their class to read some of their books at night, this is not always possible with resources and many schools don't allow guided reading books to be taken home. The opportunities for continuing the book during school time are not numerous - especially with added pressures to your timetable.

I decided I had a few issues with the way I taught guided reading.

·       Little encouragement for student's love of reading

·       Follow-up activities often not about reading at all and sometimes merely 'crowd-controlling'

·       Students just wanting to read more

·       Students wanting to take control of discussions and debates

·       Students wanting to be more independent

I wasn't happy and I decided to research guided reading more deeply. Once again you'll find it here if you have the time. I decided it was important for students to be able to decode, confident readers and mature enough to engage before I tried my new method. Therefore I didn't start it straightaway. I still do believe that this scheme should follow on from the phonics programme/ initial reading programme. After several months I decided to trial it with my Year 2 class. My session was called:

The Book Club

·       Students were split into 5 ability groups of 6 students.

·       Match student reading ability to text levels giving everyone in the group the same text. The books aren't matched to 'ability' but matched to making progress.

·       Appoint a student as 'leader' for the session. Given a dictionary to use.

·       Provide them with question starters they could use (They're nothing special, nor did I make them myself. They are great starting points. Most important thing to remember is the students choose the questions they want to discuss and use them to help themselves, not any assessment criteria you have - They can be found here)

·       Student initiates the guided reading session and acts as the teacher would (questions, help with words, encouraging expression) (One person speaks at a time, very high expectations needed of year 2's)

·       If the teacher is with that group, they model (took a while with a class of year 2's) the way the leader should conduct the session, as well as the way the other students should conduct themselves. (Big push on moving away from 'What does that word mean? - those questions are important but all too common - to comprehension questions which challenge meaning) I found I was continuously reinforcing the modelling as I worked with each group but over time I could move from modelling the learning to facilitating the learning. I could move a whole group forward by recommending to the leader to introduce to the group a new reading process: word solving, searching for and using information, self-monitoring and correcting, summarizing information, maintaining fluency, adjusting for purpose and genre, predicting, making connections (personal, other texts, and world knowledge), synthesizing, inferring, analyzing, and critiquing.

It took several months of modelling, expectations and practice. I used every opportunity. I made full use of shared reading and class texts - anytime during literacy. By the end of one term if you walked into my classroom during guided reading you would see: 5 different groups reading a text, each with a designated leader. The leader would be asking questions (improving their own understanding of the text), using dictionaries to check the meaning of words, understanding the difference between decoding and comprehension.

I honestly didn't think a class of year 2's could do it. The biggest problem I faced was classroom management. I was worried about it before I started and I knew I had to have unbelievably high standards to make it work. The potential problem was having 5 groups reading at the same time. I made sure that only one person from each group could speak at once. This didn't stifle discussion, quite the opposite, I actually found the time students waited for a person to talk meant their own answers were thought out and more deeply developed. Even with only 5 people talking at once, this could still distract each other from reading. I introduced the quiet reading voice, it worked remarkably well because students were conscious about the level of their voice. When they wanted to use expression, they would just revert back to their normal voice and it didn't seem alien to do so. They enjoyed deciding when the expression in the story warranted a voice increase.

The result was a classroom where the whole class was reading a text pitched to their level, they were quiet, could concentrate and could receive encouragement from their peers. They soon realised they didn't need me to read books, they could tackle any book they wanted.

I then moved into Year 3. I wanted to know whether it was just my original enthusiasm for something new, the particular cohort or whether it was a good method for guided reading. Thankfully, it was the latter. Part way through I reflected on the strategy and decided that it didn't encourage a few elements that were key to how I wanted my students to see reading. I wanted them to:

§  participate in more discussion

§  recommend books that they have read to their peers, giving reasons for their choices

I decided to introduce a session on Friday's replacing the 5th guided reading slot. I didn't put them in the same groups, I put them into mixed ability groups of 6. Students would take along the book they've been reading, have read or would like to read or just have ideas of topics they would like to discuss. They would take it turns to 'host their book'. Positive or negative they talked about their book, inviting questions, answering questions. Each in turn would 'host'. This is what I see reading as being, a discussion about themes, characters, things that moved you (for good or bad) I was worried this session would be seen as lacking in progress. I was wrong. They were using the skills they had learnt being the leader of their guided group. They transferred the skills. Asking questions that probe for understanding and not just surface-level questioning. Being able to summarise the book (Because they had to summarise to a weaker member of their group when they were leader). Their evaluation skill was brilliant. In order to talk about their book, they began to make connections between texts. They were being exposed to far more books than ever before.

Last year I took the method into my year 5 class and it was just as successful. I am hoping that by sharing this I will be able to receive some critique and be able to improve this even further. I hope that if someone sees a massive flaw they can point it out to me, it would benefit me greatly.

What I will say is, the students didn't just learn new skills during those sessions - they left with a love for reading. They valued reading as something more than just with the teacher, more than just follow-up activities. I managed to find a way to please people who wish to see progress, skills and did I say progress? But I also managed to do it in a way that left a positive impact on the literary lives of my students.  


<![CDATA[Continuous, purposeful, digestives (CPD)]]>Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:18:08 GMThttp://primary1teacher.com/blogs/continuous-purposeful-digestives-cpdWhen trying to deliver CPD or implement any changes, I have found teachers loosely fit into 3 types of attitude. The Will dos, the Will nots and the don't cares. The Will dos will be positive. They will be enthusiastic about almost anything - annoyingly almost anything. They include the people who genuinely believe in the changes but also people jumping on the bandwagon. They will say such phrases as: 'Any change is good change' or 'Well, [insert prominent name] said it so it must be true for us' or 'SLT are bringing in these changes so we have to just go along with it'. They include the people who don't think for themselves, or at least not enough to provoke any serious reflection. However, they're not the people I want to blog about.

The will nots will be openly negative, unmovable forces of antagonism, the world will change before they do. They will be heard, usually at inappropriate times, saying such comments as: 'I've been doing this for long enough to know what works and what doesn't'. The teacher doesn't even need to be old or experienced to come out with, 'I don't understand why we should be told, it's not like they even teach'. In my mind, if you can reach them then that's great, but they're not the people I want to blog about.

I'm interested in the don't cares. In my experience, there are a lot more don't cares than I ever appreciated. If I ever went into a school and saw 100% of heads nodding, I knew there was a problem. I'm interested in them because they have disenfranchised themselves with the system. They're not just all the traditional, unmovable, geriatric corpses of teachers in the school. They're not the people who have never and will never get on board with change. It's not even the people who think they know best. It's the people who have tried to change their practice, get onboard with the newest initiative but have become apathetic regarding the million-and-one things they have to sit through during CPD. Ironically, I have found that they are the people with the biggest value to the school. They have the attitude of continuity in a changing world of education. If you can win them over on something, genuinely win them over, then almost always that initiative will be successful.  To finish the trend, they will say such things as: 'These assistant heads and deputy heads come with their show stopper changes but they leave within 2 years and we are left to pick up the pieces', or they'll say 'During INSET they cite Ofsted here, Ofsted this and frequently cry "What about when Ofsted come?". Over time, the don't cares just got disinterested.

The don't cares were once the Will dos but people taking INSET and staff meetings have ground down their love for pedagogy by introducing: 'The newest initiative that will change everything' or 'The newest thing Ofsted is looking for'. Is it marking? Is it planning? Is it teaching? Well I'd imagine they're interested in all of those.

You might say, well I don't want those types of people in my school. You might say they're job is to do as I say, well it is but good luck changing anything with that attitude. You might say, well as long as my INSET reaches a few people it will start to improve practice - that's defeatist, don't you want it to reach everyone? I want to blog about the ways you can get on-board the teachers who will go along with every change but deep down close their classroom door and do it their own way.

No amount of bulldozing is going to work

It doesn't matter how much Dweck you knock their close-mindset with, or how much Williams you assess their apathy by, you're never going to see any visible Hattie learning from them. If you start pacing up and down bringing Teach like a Champion to life, you'll get nothing but rolled-eyes and a hand moving closer to the pile of muffins. But to you they'll nod, agree with you, smile and change nothing - it'll infuriate you even further.

Use a sieve

We've all done it, you watch a video, read a brilliant book and your mind is swimming with the way you're a changed practitioner, angels are singing from above - you just can't wait to try it out. Everyone has their opinion on education (hey I'm surprised you've even read it this far). Why are there are millions of different voices on how to teach? Because no one can give an answer for every school. Each school is organic, it changes by the people who work and learn there. What works for someone else, regardless of sometimes overwhelming research, doesn't work for all. Win over the don't cares by not announcing every time you get a 'holy grail' moment and pass everything through a sieve.

Continuous, purposeful, digestives (CPD)

INSET and training should be looking for continuity. John Hattie identifies teachers as being the single biggest variable for good learning. What's one of the best ways to destroy this variable - destroy moral. Announcing that from this day forth we shall rise above the shackles, turn our backs on the past for it was not worthy. For the don't cares, you might as well play Lion King's Circle of Life, because every few years INSETs seem to revive that ethos. Within your opening statement you've got whispers of, "Thank you hot shot, put a lot of effort into last year."

I've been to a few schools where you've needed to bring about a lot of change, but there are other ways of doing it. Bring about big changes but take the staff with you at the same time. Engage the change from the point of view of continuity. Identify teachers you've seen where practice has been brilliant and use their example to ignite change. Blame senior leadership where appropriate, nothing raises moral like a good old fashioned own-up. Do it from within what was already there. It wins moral and doesn't widen the 'Them and Us' gap any further.  

Purposefulness. You'll win them over with leadership, not playing to every whim of Ofsted. Show how you're doing this for the children and don't mention anything other than your overwhelming belief in what you're doing. True passion speaks volumes. If your changes are to show you're 'doing something' or a way to exert your own ambition then the don't cares will cut through it. Some schools do need big changes, but I have found if you take the time to win the staff by putting children at the center, you'll win their classroom.

Digestion and not just to allow time for the digestives to settle. You've got to accept that it takes time. You have to allow time for discussion and opinions to be thrashed out. If you're bringing in an new initiative for the right reason and it is sound policy then don't be afraid to let the teachers discuss its merits and short-comings. I don't mean a classic example of, discuss on your tables what you think of this new policy that I've clearly spent ages on and if you even think of raising a negative point I shall shove a negative point of my own so far up your... Be the person clearly willing to trust teacher judgement and opinion, make changes to your policy there and then to encourage honest discussion. I don't see why CPD should be the only area of school where 'Chalk and talk' is still default. Over lunch, allow for digestion of both food and changes.

So, if you're thinking about what to do during your INSET at the start of term and you've been riled up over the summer by all of the talk on twitter, blogs, books or videos you've had the time to finally watch, think about the types of people you have to pitch it to in your school. Do you want nodding dogs or do you actually want to win them over. In my experience it is powerful when you take the time to think about the different types of people you have in your school and how to pitch it to them. Don't be happy just pitching to the will dos. Don't be happy just complaining about the will nots afterwards. And don't forget about the don't cares. Don't bulldozer your way through, use a sieve, win them over and remember Continuity, purposefulness and Digestives - I mean Digestion.

<![CDATA[From The Ground Up]]>Sun, 17 Aug 2014 17:29:40 GMThttp://primary1teacher.com/blogs/from-the-ground-upFrom The Ground Up

Reading about head teachers creating their own league tables didn't make me think about whether they were good or bad - a reaction dealt with heavily by some great blogs already - it made me think about whether this could set a precedent for what else the teaching profession could do from the ground up. It made me think about self-regulation.

The DfE will never set up a body which is completely independent. Ofsted is and never will be truly independent. This is not new and I'm sure the view is widely accepted. Any regulator set up by the government will be influenced by politicisation. Education is too important to be a bargaining tool for votes and elections and it is therefore of the highest priority that the teaching profession self-regulate.

The body which regulates any profession should be two things: trusted and independent. Without trust it loses legitimacy. Its ability to be a voice of teaching, for  teaching, is diminished. It needs to be independent, free from political, social and economic restraint. The regulator mustn't look at what is in the best interests of the 'moral fabric' of society nor whether they can get the best value for money, it must look at the best interests of education.

Ofsted is not free from political influence. The DfE appoints the Chairman of the Board of Ofsted, as well as its Chief Inspector. A significant amount of noise has been made over the appointment of David Hoare as Chairman of the Board of Ofsted, mainly because of his ties to Academies Enterprise Trust, but also because of the firing of his predecessor Baroness Morgan. With such ties to the DfE it is hard to imagine that Ofsted will ever lose a level of politicisation.

Similarly, Ofsted doesn't have the trust of the profession either. The politicisation doesn't help but also the way in which Ofsted goes about its business. The way it is seen as battling against teachers 'for the benefit of children' and the way in which its Inspectors sometimes have little experience in education and more often than not don't have specific knowledge of the areas they inspect. It is commonplace for Inspectors with secondary experience to inspect primary schools and subsequently spend their time trying to understand early-years. This isn't always the case, but it happens often enough for the profession to distrust the voice of Ofsted. The impact of this is a polarisation of the profession. SLT dragging the school to meet Ofsted criteria and teachers trying to maintain what they know to be beneficial to their children. The teaching profession is getting too many splinters straddling the fence of: changing political standards v pedagogy.

The government will never relinquish control of an area of policy that can be used in the political game and I can understand why. Education policy is a great vote winner with core voters. If the Conservatives need the support of their core they engage in some education bashing of the 'teaching-left'. Equally if Labour want to rally support they let the Shadow Secretary loose on a 'listen to their concerns' campaign. All the while the teaching profession is rolling its eyes and listening to no one. It is enviable that all of the press recently has alienated the teaching profession even further. Some reforms are good, some are equally terrible, but none are being trusted by the teaching body. A lot of teachers will try as much as they can to continue to shut the door and get on. This is not healthy for anyone that is involved in education.  

An answer to this problem could be the setting up of a body that represents and regulates the teaching profession. The General Teaching Council of England sought to do just this in 1998. It was responsible for awarding Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), it regulated the teaching profession and advised the government and other agencies on a wide range of issues that affected the teaching profession, including standards, teaching and learning. The problem was it was constructed under heavily politicised terms and the result was a body that the teaching profession may have trusted slightly more than politicians, but a body that was definitely not independent. It was set up to appease teachers and did nothing but just add to bureaucracy. Michael Gove swiftly abolished it in 2012 as meaningless. Stating that:

"The GTCE does not improve classroom practice, does not help professionals develop, does not help children learn - in short it does not earn its keep - so it must go.

"And for those who argue that we need a body to help police the profession, let me say this: this government wants to trust professionals - not busybody and patronise them."

Regardless of what the GTCE did or did not do, it was certainly within a swipe of the governments whims. This shows that the teaching profession can't be regulated by any Council or body which is within an arm's length of Westminster. It can't be an Ofsted, set up by the DfE to be 'independent', it can't be set up with powers given by the government like the GTCE, it has to come from the ground up. 

In 2013 there was recent talk of a Royal College of Teaching. A lot was made of it a year ago, there was political consensus that it needed to be trusted and independent, but this seems to have died away. I think a lot has changed since 2013 and we're in even more of a need for a professional body. The idea is there but instead of being proactive towards it, we remain reactive to education policy. I would like to see blogs and tweets that take this idea seriously. 

Similar to medicine, law and nursing a Teaching Self-Regulation Council would gain the trust of the profession and the public by:

·       Taking into account current study of pedagogy

·       Influencing Initial Teacher Training

·       Maintaining a code of conduct holding teachers to account

·       Being peer-reviewed

·       Not being a trade union

·       Being a voice against politicisation

These areas would make the profession more than just an extension of the Civil Service, it would raise the image of teaching in the public eye and restore the confidence of teachers.

Enough background, the real question is: How do we create a professional body that is truly independent and trustworthy? I would argue it has to be done from the ground up.

This has to be a slow process, no grassroots revolution - however muddy school playing-field that sounds - no raise your banner and strike until we have independence, it has to gain the confidence of the teachers, the public and the government. Politics has to be completely taken out of education. There can be no trade union influence. Trade Union's have had their role in protecting the rights of practitioners and this should continue, but their role in speaking up about education policy would have to stop. Trade Unions would have to readdress their role and represent the worker not the educator. They would represent the worker on pay, conditions, pensions and workload but their voice representing the educator on issues such as the new curriculum, teaching styles and ITT would have to stop.

To gain enough widespread respect and support from all it couldn't be a radical voice. It couldn't speak out against policy. It wouldn't work if it was reactionary to every new policy by different governments, it would only serve to be seen as just another educational lobbyist group. Its integrity and independence need to be paramount. In being apolitical it could seek out as broad an appeal for the best pedagogy in education as possible. There are people out there currently who are apolitical and voicing these concerns. There are groups that are apolitical and voicing their concerns to the government. I would argue that that is their problem, they are voicing them to the government which clearly has decided against such appeals. It takes a body to stay out of politics during both Labour and Conservative governments for it to gain a level of apolitical integrity. It has to be a slow process because it would have to work alongside Ofsted, DfE and the Government in power until it could prove itself. It would have to have a long-term view and rise above current frustrations in pursuit of the greater educational good.

If it could attempt to be as apolitical as possible to gain the confidence of the public and the government, how could it gain the confidence of the teaching profession? It would have to be solely represented by them. It would have to include trusted voices on pedagogy, members of ITT, head teachers and be significantly populated by teachers. It would have to speak as a unanimous voice by these different levels of educators. There would exist no 'them and us'. They would speak on behalf of what was best for educating children. They would set standards of professional conduct, not criteria for educational practice. They would provide the best possible information available in the most beneficial way for schools. They would not state a preference for anything. They would provide answers to problems so that schools themselves could decide how best to solve their own difficulties. Graham Nuthall produced a great paper on research informed change it can be found here and he stated that '...we should first find out what kind of knowledge would be most useful for informing teachers' thinking and guiding their practice.' This could be the main guideline for the body. 

This all sounds great, I hope it would be a more independent and better world for education. Whether it sounds too good is an argument I accept, but I would say something has to change. Are we able to get behind the proposal for a Royal College of Teaching? How long does the teaching profession leave it before they lose even more faith in the people representing, governing and controlling them? How long do we continue to be reactionary voices against the latest Ofsted policy or the latest government in power? Are we to continue to roll our eyes, tut and say "Whatever next?"? Do we continue to just be a branch of the Civil Service or do we establish ourselves as a professional body?

When are we going to realise that the only way for fair regulation, that we trust to be independent and in the best interests of children, is to act from the ground up?

<![CDATA[Britishness - Liberté, égalité, fraternité]]>Mon, 11 Aug 2014 21:10:25 GMThttp://primary1teacher.com/blogs/britishness-libert-galit-fraternitThere has been a significant amount of political rhetoric surrounding the topic of citizenship, such words as 'Britishness' and 'civic nationalism' being prime examples. I wanted to use this opportunity to dicuss a topic that will, no doubt, continue to be 'hot' for sometime. 

Citizenship has been a topic of discussion before people were even recognised as a citizens. However, NIcky Morgan has reignited a debate that originally started when the Government published the new teaching standards. The Teachers' Standards states for teachers to ensure they are: 

'not undermining fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.' 

She decided to stick with the Govian style of teaching and jump feet first into a tricky debate on teaching nursery children these 'fundamental British values'. Here comments can be found: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28700449

I don't want to focus on the teaching of British values to nursery children, I want to focus on the debate that these values have anything to do with the word British at all. I would argue very strongly that 'Britishness' and 'British Values' are political constructs that are being used for a political agenda that make teachers uncomfortable teaching.

I want to address the questions: What does 'Britishness' mean? and How do we teach British Values?

Ah yes, those distinctly British values that are ingrained in us all as exclusively British. Um, what were they again? Sense of humour - or lack of one? Mutual Respect -fair play old chap? Democracy - something, something Churchill, something, best of a bad bunch, Individual Liberty - ah yes Liberté, égalité, fraternité the most British of values? But yet Britishness seems to be everywhere, we are constantly reminded by numerous quotidian events by the performance of our sporting representatives, the prevalence of flags, symbols and emblems of nationality in public spaces and you only have to google Nigel Farage to see him pulling a pint of Proper Job down the local pub - which the name of the pint inevitably symbolises Work Ethic must be added to our list of 'British Values'. 

Why do we need this political construct? Are the values mentioned not universal or personal rights? Teachers would feel much more comfortable teaching rights as moral or as human rights. Including the word British as a prefix gives it a worryingly nationalist tone. The term has been used to politically coin a sense of national identity and citizenship to please the people who believe this sense of what it means to be British. In trying to find a term and definition, the Government has in fact divided opinion of what it means to live in this country. What it means to be British is different for every single person, even within the same community or school. In doing so, the Government is forcing disunity and forcing people to 'choose sides' within this country where there exists no need.

Another example that highlights the mistrust of using 'Britishness' to describe anything associated with values, because of the political connotations, was the plan for a Britishness day. In October 2008, Gordon Brown dropped plans for a Britishness day, along with suggestions from immigration minister Liam Byrne that it could be marked by such national 'distinctives' as drinking, watching television and appreciating both the weather and Morris dancing. I wonder what the British people think to such a description of their key pastimes. Although this could be argued as containing a significant amount of exaggeration or romanticising, that is almost the point. The term 'Britishness' is used and associated with examples such as these, which is clearly extremely subjective and political. The fact that a day to celebrate Britishness was proposed to encourage unity but then withdrawn because of its apparent negative undertones is a prime example of the difficulties in using Britishness or British values to describe a set of ideals.

How do we teach 'British Values'?

The new curriculum believes it should be taught through history, British history. Michael Gove stated that the 'national story' can be used to show the importance of these values. It is unclear whether the government is intending for the negative elements of British History to be taught as well or for us to pick and choose the few times in history we showed such angelic qualities. Putting the word British onto history restricts our ability to be able to teach in a balance, fair and representative way. Here is the personal value of democracy and Britain has shown it here, here and here - but not here. 

Instead you should use a variety of different histories to teach moral values. By taking this approach you are broadening the minds of children rather than restricting them to a damaging political construct. They are being restricted to the view that the values are exclusively 'British'.  'Britishness' and 'British Values' is a hot-potato topic in schools and could lead to an issue in the teaching of the new curriculum. Britishness, values and citizenship is a very political topic and the culture that has emerged today makes teachers and especially trainee teachers feel as if they are 'walking on egg-shells' as there are numerous 'political correctness 'holes' they could potentially fall into. 

I would advise Nicky Morgan to take the word British out of the Teaching Standards and out of the political rhetoric she seems to have jumped straight into. 

Teach that values are moral, they are universal and the child will form their own personal values that will not be tainted by politicisation.  

<![CDATA[Coaching V Mentoring]]>Tue, 05 Aug 2014 12:51:47 GMThttp://primary1teacher.com/blogs/coaching-v-mentoringI just came across an article by Andrew Jones 'Coaching v mentoring: what works best for teachers?'. He put forward the notion that most of us have been mentored at some point during our teaching career but very few have actually been coached. Andrew makes clear that it is difficult to tell the difference and he explains that:

 "In a nutshell, mentoring is a way of managing career transition whereas coaching is used whenever an individual feels the need to evaluate their professional capabilities, allowing for genuine continuous professional development (CPD)"

It is an interesting point and it has made me think about the difference between the support I have received, as well as when I have given support.

My brain went through a few mini explosions trying to really pin down the difference between the two and I tend to agree with the origin of the word mentor. In the Odyssey, Odysseus gets Mentor to teach and oversee his son Telemachus. Mentor invested time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of Telemachus. I like this view because it uses the phrase 'assisting the growth ' and I think that it encapsulates the fundamental difference between support and coaching.  

Coaching is very performance driven. It tends to be focused on a improving a certain aspect of a teachers practice and it is usually short-term. You could be coached on a variety of different aspects but coaching is normally more focused and wants to see a much quicker improvement than mentoring. Coaching is expected to yield results as the coach is a 'partner in the growth' as opposed to 'assisting the growth'.

In my experience mentoring tends to be more objective. You see the person being mentored for their strengths, weaknesses, experience and style they can bring and you try to understand how best to assist the natural direction of their career. You establish a relationship that is based on freedom and trust. You don't force a change on their personality of teaching and you never seek to change their style. You look at the person for the best they can bring out of themselves. It is a relationship based on the principle that the mentor can learn just as much about themselves as the person being mentored. This is where my view differs from the one in the article. It is my experience that by mentoring in a way that is 'assisting the growth' you allow room for the individual to evaluate the direction of their own practice and you allow for genuine CPD.

 The article states that mentoring usually takes the form of imparting knowledge. The mentor provides themselves as a model of their own style, strengths and weaknesses. I would argue that coaching is equally, if not more narrow in the way it imparts knowledge. The person being mentored might say "I would like to improve this aspect of my teaching, can you coach me to improve?" The coach then becomes a partner in the growth and they bring with it their own subjective views of teaching. I have experienced people that have said, "What would you like to improve on in your own practice?" to only then go on to say "It is great that you are reflecting but from what I have seen I think it would be more appropriate to do X or Y." I have had scenarios where they have said "Yes you have clearly reflected well and I think that would be appropriate, if you want to succeed you should do this, this and this." Even if they have asked, "How do you think you could achieve that?" The conversation invariably becomes subjective, I do not blame it for being so because a coach can only help improve skills and practice in the way they know and within their capabilities. I have found it difficult to stay objective when there is a clear skill that needs improvement even if it has been identified by the teacher. Some might argue that you should be objective in your coaching and nurture their skills and style while coaching them to improve. In my experience this is difficult to do.

I do not think the best way forward is arguing coaching against mentoring. I think taking on more of a coaching role has a tendency to pass across your own views on how you can achieve that goal. There is a place for coaching but I think it is for the practitioner to coach themselves. The most important way of supporting is in the form of mentoring. You take a long term approach to a person's development. Mentoring takes an understanding that growth is always on-going and any support someone has should fit into where they want to go themselves and not the views of the person giving support. You should seek to understand the whole person, what makes them tick, what their work/life balance is like, what they base their self-confidence on, whether they have any damaging self-perceptions, and how the personal influences the professional. It should develop the person for the future and not just the skills or changes needed right now. In trusting the people you mentor, understanding them and giving them freedom, you can enrich the school community and enhance your own professional development.

Coaching focuses on results and changes which need to be made in the immediate future in order to pass and not fail. Coaching will always bring the potential for subjective influences. Whereas, mentoring respects what people can bring to the community, because it makes them aware of themselves and it gives them the self-confidence to coach themselves.