Such a bold title sets expectations very high. To attempt to distil such a complex and often idiosyncratic thing into the pages of a book is, to say the least, brave. For this reason the title may run the risk of putting off potential readers. However Bentley-Davies makes very clear from the opening paragraph that while those looking for `ten top tips before you move on to your next job` may well gain something from dipping into the book, it is really written to be read from start to finish. For her the key is to see this as a dynamic learning process, not a quick fix.
There are four sections, aiming to take readers on the journey towards becoming an amazing teacher. The first covers the key characteristics and skills from teacher and pupil perspectives. There are the obvious elements, such as plenaries, questioning, group work and planning. In addition, though, it tackles areas harder to define, such as climate and charisma. The second section covers the practicalities, with specific strategies centred on assessment for learning. The third section focuses on achievement for all, dealing in three separate chapters with underachieving boys, special educational needs and gifted and talented. Section IV deals with common problems such as body language, motivation and work/life balance.
Bentley-Davies`s style is lively and engaging, as she constantly draws on her experience over many years as teacher, inspector, adviser and consultant. The text is rich with personal anecdote, research findings and commonsense advice that draw the reader in while maintaining a level of challenge. Frequently, this apparently basic and practical approach leads to some deep and potentially profound reflection.
Throughout there is a recognition that fundamental changes, new learning and risk-taking are key parts of teacher development. `Thinking points` contain challenging questions and discursive and useful advice that takes each chapter`s content off the page to genuinely and critically engage the reader with the messages. `Reflection moments` encourage readers to note down for themselves what has been gained from each chapter and to record specific targets related to this. These aspects of the book are a key to its success. Some chapters can start to feel a little simplistic until the reader reaches the thinking and reflection sections, which are skilfully put together in such a way that complacency is quickly skewered. As such, especially given the brief and accessible nature of the chapters, they would make ideal Inset activities in their own right.
Cynics may well be deterred by the title, and effective teachers will obviously gain considerably less than those who are new to the profession or have significant development needs. However, this is a very readable and at times inspiring book that will support any teacher`s journey towards `amazing`.