Product reviews for How To Teach

Andrea Berkeley, Development Director, Teaching Leaders
This book will take you inside the mind of a teacher who first breaks all the rules of conventional wisdom, while at the same time providing new teachers with a solid and timely scaffold of pedagogy for the post-Ofsted age.

You won`t find Phil`s rules for promoting good behaviour (and teacher sanity) in any ITT institution or DCSF classroom management manual. Reading Chapter 1 made me laugh out loud on a crowded train full of strangers, travelling - as it happens - from one August training institution to another. Laughter caused by the joy of recognition that here was a teachers` teacher who really understands and likes children, empathises with the pain of growing up, recognises the natural urge to challenge authority if given half a chance, and who intends to stay on top and the adult in charge.
Although full of wit and humour, this is a deeply serious book written by a seasoned practitioner who has not migrated to academia, civil service or inspection, but remains in the urban classroom. No educational jargon, no tortuous theory - just sheer common sense and humanity. Any new teacher will tell you that it`s not subject knowledge or lesson planning that keeps you awake at night - it`s the sheer terror of being one against thirty or more often one against a few individuals who give you grief.

Any rooky teacher would do well to internalise some of this wisdom - such as all children have `special needs`, the pointlessness of detentions and how to be assertive without being confrontational. One of Phil`s best tips - along with `don`t be too matey`, `appear relentlessly happy` and pile on the praise - is `We are dealing with a generation of children who are used to negotiating with their parent/s and who find this a profitable way of doing business. Don`t.` There`s an absence of panic about how difficult inner city children are to manage, just some common sense about how to stay one step ahead and the adult in the situation.

Phil`s book provides novices with a practical toolkit, demystifying lesson planning and differentiation strategies, illustrating a comprehensive range of effective pupil grouping techniques designed to facilitate learning and subvert boredom. Old hands (and mentors to NQTs and BTs) will smirk at the irreverent swipes at current orthodoxy surrounding differentiation, gifted and talented provision and `learning styles`, assessment fads and political correctness, and welcome the emphasis on teaching as a craft, rather than an art or a science, that can be learned - but not without putting in time and hard graft. Phil also re-invents teaching as a performance art, rather an important message for new teachers bent on acquiring psychological presence and gravitas in the classroom - or `acquiring rep` as he would call it.

The readability, wit and style of this book belie its seriousness as a guide to being the best teacher you can be. There are some great original and workable ideas in chapters on methods and organisation, lesson planning and assessment, the `third hidden objective`, the Harris Method and the many football analogies among them.

The cast of urban kids cited in examples have almost a cartoon-like familiarity but amongst the humour there are some profound truths about the vulnerability of adolescence rarely addressed in teacher training, the need to feel safe and fear of loss. In many ways this is an old-fashioned book, a refreshing change from years of government strategy documents and wordy university research papers. Simple truths about what children really want and need - permanent teachers permanently present and books regularly marked - and the essential mundane tasks that underpin the nobler aspects of teaching - rigorous attention to the marking, presentation and display of children`s work, are articulated with passion and conviction, along with a welcome return to the primacy of and joy in subject knowledge.
Guest | 25/02/2011 00:00
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