Saturday, January 04, 2014

Review - The Practically Perfect Teacher

Emdad Rahman: The Practically Perfect Teacher presents a pragmatic, practical guide to help the reader grow and flourish so that they may become the outstanding teacher who makes the difference between success and failure for the next generation. 

Awarded an OBE for her services to education, Jackie Beere has authored a useful toolkit with four digestible chapters which will enhance the knowledge, understanding and teaching strategies of all teachers. 

Beere highlights resiliience and cites the example of J. K. Rowling as a case in point. Rowling once gave a speech during which she addressed how character is formed by surviving failures and overcoming adversity. She said: "Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way."

A pupil wants to be loved and understood and one of the most important ingredients is for teachers to make learning irresistible. They are agents for change. It is easy to blame kids and stereotype but worth noting that habits start off as a choice and the best teachers have great methods to nurture good habits in their learners. Therefore a good intervention is to quickly ditch strategies that don't work. 

This book focuses a lot on John Hattie’s work and through exploration the reader is encouraged to adopt seven mindsets for best practise purposes. 

A teacher must believe that they can make a difference. Passing exams is important, but using the knowledge gained to become a successful human being and citizen is overwhelmingly the greater goal of education - To help every child learn and make progress without limits. This is the bedrock of 'perfect' teaching. 

According to Paul Howard Jones, teachers need to see themselves as instigators of a change process that can happen in any child's brain. Neuroscientists now tell us that children are 'building their brain' when they are in school and the purpose of education is to grow intelligence. When you educate someone, you are changing their brain. *That is what education is for. 

Asking questions is the bread and butter of teaching and this is the lifeblood of outstanding learning. Teacher questioning of learners during class such as 'why', 'how', 'what' 'if' are the basic tools of teaching. 

A good teacher promotes independent learning and an idea to introduce could be to encourage students to exhaust three strategies before asking for assistance from the teacher. Students could be encouraged to teach and present to each other as often as possible and in groups the teacher should ensure all participants have a role and none are passengers. In such a situation it is appropriate to give pupils varied leadership roles that will challenge their comfort zones and help them take controlled responsibility to contribute towards class progress. 

Similarly a good teacher is endlessly flexible in their approach to learning and will continually adapt the teaching style whilst mirroring and matching the mood of the class. To achieve this one must try their level best to understand the world if the learner, especially the disengaged one to gain insight. 

An outstanding lesson is a fun one with rewards for completion of tasks and one which has learners racing to get there. 

Teachers can instantly measure their lesson impact by having a test or quiz at the end, pair sharing the main points of the lesson amongst learners, chanting/reciting collectively, or noting three things learnt on sticky notes. It is very useful to keep a learning and teaching blog to record observations and discoveries in order to enhance the teaching experience. 

Teachers should regularly push learners out of their comfort zones and carefully observe how they adapt to change. A students answer can tell you so much about the way that they have been taught. They should be encouraged to be descriptive and to be curious about learning. 

Feedback to learners is the breakfast of champions. Although results are a reflection of teaching ability there is no failure. Just feedback on improvements that are necessary for success. 

Effective teachers set challenging work that extends learning. Homework should be motivating and connect with the life of the learner. 

A good teacher is encouraged to collaborate and share with colleagues. This will promote healthy progress. There is a synergy in interdependency. 

The book is concise and extremely to the point. Teaching is a worthy and rewarding choice of career - it is a great privilege and readers will be able to adapt their newly honed skills within a variety of educational disciplines. 

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