Teaching Sayings

I wanted to collect in one place various sayings, some explicitly about teaching and others not, that I have considered useful in the past.  Suggestions for additions welcome.

Don’t expect, inspect.  Assessment is important.  If a year eleven boy can talk intelligently about Lord of the Flies, don’t expect he can write intelligently about it unless you’ve inspected his writing.  If you have taught students what epistrophe is and how to use it one lesson, don’t expect they will still know about it in a month’s time.  Set and mark work, and set regular knowledge quizzes.  Source: a former boss, who had quit teaching.

Explanation, demonstration, application.  As far as I’m concerned, this is the core of teaching: ‘this is how you write an essay conclusion, kids’; ‘here’s three examples: one good, one medium, one bad’; ‘okay, now you write an essay conclusion’.  Many, many times, students have misunderstood something because I’ve been sloppy with my explanations or haven’t given an example/enough examples.  Source: a Frenchman who gave me a skiing lesson.

What you permit, you promote.  Assume that if you don’t call a student out on talking out of turn/not underlining the title/staring out the window as you talk to them, that is the equivalent of explicitly saying, ‘I don’t mind if you do that thing’.  Also, the next time you do pick up on a student for doing that thing, they will say, ‘but you didn’t mind when [insert student name here] did it!  You’re being unfair’.  I don’t believe in ‘tactically ignoring’ – if I do it, it’s because I’m being lazy.  Source: I think, either a David Didau or John Tomsett blog.

Sweat the small stuff.  Someone once said to me this was the best advice they could give on behaviour management.  I guess one of the problems with enforcing it might be the feeling of pettiness as you tell off a student for picking up a pen or looking out of a window when you’re talking.

You shouldn’t be the hardest-working person in the room.  I used to feel guilty if my class was busily writing and I wasn’t doing anything.  I now do the same writing task the students do, and when I feedback, show them my example.  This is a tip I picked up from David Didau’s ‘The Secret of Literacy’.  Source: unknown

Chalk and talk.  A term I think people generally use negatively to refer to someone talking and explaining things to class.  ‘Whiteboard pen and talk’ presumably less catchy, if more accurate.  Source: unknown.

Practice makes permanent.   This modification of ‘practice makes perfect’ is from David Didau.  If a student constantly writes ‘its’ when they mean ‘it’s’, without the teacher correcting them, this will become permanent.  Conversely, one of the things I am currently considering is if I give my students enough writing practice.

Don’t use a cannonball to kill a mosquito.  Calmness comes from setting minor detentions for minor things.  I understand at MCS they set 20min detentions for things like not having the right equipment.  This has lead to excellent behaviour.  I used to set two minute detentions every time a student called out, tapped their pen, looked out the window (I only don’t now because the school I currently work at has much better-behaved students).  It’s far better then tolerating, understanding, and ‘tactically ignoring’ minor disruptions until you lose your temper on a student.  Source: Confucious.

The 80/20 rule.  This is the idea that things in life aren’t spread equally.  In teaching, for example, 20% of your classroom activities might be responsible for 80% of your students’ progress.  I think this one’s worth bearing in mind because teaching consists of so many little jobs.  Doing any one thing means not doing something else (opportunity cost).  Thus, we need to work out what is the most useful and least useful, cut out the latter, and replace it with the former.

Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.  This is attributed to Napoleon and I think it’s worth bearing in mind when it comes to student behaviour.  There’s no point getting angry with students if they didn’t know or had forgotten they were supposed to do the task in silence / stand behind their chairs before leaving the classroom / come and see you before the lesson if they don’t have their homework.

If you seek peace, prepare for war.  This is the kind of quote is sure to have me accused of not caring for students, seeing education as conlict, and generally being a bad person.  All I mean by it is that a school needs to have sanctions, if for no other reason that as deterrents.  Teachers need to know they will be backed if they sanction or a child.

Don’t reinvent the wheel.  I think this is probably the most common in new teachers.  Teachers never have much time, so being efficient and prioritising are two really key skills.  Getting lessons off TES, doing the same lesson with top set year eight as you do with mid-set year nine, collaborative planning of SOWs, are all ways swap time spent spent planning lessons with time spent marking/in the pub.




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