One of the many books that I read over the summer holidays is this book by John Tomsett. This is one of the best books that I have read on the field of education ever.
You need to know your core purpose – what is it that gets you out of bed each day to come to work? Schools should be re-structured to accommodate their core purpose; and that core purpose should guide every difficult decision. For example Hutchinson School’s core purpose is “to inspire confident leaners who will thrive in a changing world’.
“Target your resources on what matters most and just make do with everything else. Teaching is the thing that makes most difference to children’s academic performance so invest high quality continuing professional development CPD – train people to be good teachers.”
“In order to stay focused on professional development we need to stop worrying about things we cannot control and focus upon what we can do something about – our own practice. The only way to develop truly great schools is through each one of us taking responsibility for improving he quality of our teaching. We need to break the glass ceiling which surrounds great teaching so that we all aspire to it and see it is achievable. We need to foster a growth culture which is founded on the belief that all of us can improve.”
In the book John Tomsett quotes Professor Chris Husbands:
“We can all teach well and we can all teach badly. Even good teachers teach some lessons and some groups less well; even the struggling teacher can teach a successful lesson on occasion. More generally, we can all teach better: teaching changes and develops. Skills improve. Ideas change. Practice alters. It’s teaching, not teachers.”
Another key quote, this time by Tomsett is:
“The one thing that destroys the energy of a workplace culture is a climate of fear. Conversely, people’s energies are maximised when they feel loved and safe. Love wins over fear every time. Ron Berger has never been so right when he says ‘Culture Matters”
Tomsett also quotes Roland Barth when talking about school culture:
“To change a school’s culture requires mustering the courage and skill to not remain victimised by the toxic elements of the school’s culture but rather to address them.”
Some other notes that I took from the book:
- Every teacher fails on a daily basis. If you are not failing you are just not paying attention. Because we fail all the time.
- In building a classroom culture, I have based my whole career upon a line from Virgil, ‘Success nourishes them: they can because they think they can’ [when working with a difficult group Tomsett stated], I never, ever ,ever, ever diverged publicly from believing that every single one of them would get a minimum of a grade C.
- When teaching hard classes, laugh with them and let them laugh at you. Trust them. Choose your moment and use the phrase, ‘I’m going to rust you to do this,’ looking directly into their eyes. On some things you have to compromise. I know it encourages learnt helplessness, but just buy a stack of biros and don’t get precious if you lose a load.
- When giving explanations, pare down what you are explaining, have more than one way to explain something, and try to use subject specific vocabulary in your explanations.
Tomsett also gives some strategies to make time:
- You have to privilege the time for teachers to work on their teaching if you want to grow a truly great school.
- Beware of asking colleagues to do anything which impinges on their time without it being to their benefit.
- Work in twenty-five-minute chunks and use the Pomodoro Technique.
- Cut corners if you have to – sometimes just good enough is good enough.
- Some things won’t get done. Period.
There is also a section about the things that are needed in order for teaching to become an evidence-based profession; creating structures in schools where classroom teachers:
- Work in an environment where continual improvement is the cultural norm.
- Can access good evidence easily.
- Feel encouraged and safe to change their practice in the light of the evidence.
- Are supported by a school-based research lead with a higher education connection.
- Can evaluate the impact on student outcomes of the changes to their pedagogy.
The final take away from this book is this quote:
“The bottom line is that to be any good at teaching it has to matter to you, properly, right there in your chest.”
Get this book on Amazon here.