THE POWER OF THE PRIMARY TEACHER

We must never forget the impact primary teachers have upon the children they teach. The power and importance of the primary years is demonstrated in a letter received by former chair of NAPE, Jeremy Rowe.

 

Dear Jeremy Rowe

Are you the Mr Rowe who was a primary school teacher at William Torbitt School in the early 1970s?  I hope you are, and that I have identified you correctly.

I just wanted to say thank you for being such an inspirational teacher. I was in Class 4R at William Torbitt School, in 1972-3. Back then, I was Cathy Brown, and I was a redhead, (and very well behaved according to friends’ parents).  I am studying for MA B Project at London Metropolitan University and my theme is Valuing Women.  This has made me review the people I have met who I value because of the contribution they made to my life.

I found you to be an imaginative, energetic teacher. You were newly qualified and had brought many modern teaching methods to your classes.  You led us in performing an opera, which really impressed my father!  You played your clarinet(?) and I remember watching you fiddle with the reed when we started singing, before you joined in. You built a library corner outside the main hall in the school, and taught woodworking skills to lots of children in order to get it built.  We learned by doing projects and finding things out through looking at books that you had arranged for the school to borrow from the council library.  I particularly remember looking at Volcanos and Glaciers in the Geographical Project and Anne Boleyn in the Historical Project.

I also remember writing to the Port of London Authority for a project and getting lots of maps back from them.  You also had us write to local supermarkets for floor plans so we could work out whether you could walk all round the store without doubling back on yourself – you complained bitterly that when you shopped with your wife, there were lots of men in charge of the trolley, waiting at the end of the aisles while your wives ran up and down, selecting the goods. You did not like the congestion of other men with trolleys!   I thought it was very daring when you had us open the double glazing in the classroom, stick the plans on the back of the window, and stand on the desks to draw walking routes around the supermarkets.  It was really imaginative, inspirational teaching.

Another time you were teaching us a french song about The Sea.  You were unimpressed with the translation and had a friend re-translate it.  I was terribly impressed that you knew someone who spoke French sufficiently well that they could translate a song!  Probably someone with whom you went to university?  You also introduced storytime at the end of the day, and the first book you read was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  I also remember our class having a big debate about the death of Marc Bolan and you contributed with a positive opinion on modern music (totally unlike my parents!)

I hope I have found the right Jeremy Rowe.  Your enthusiasm for teaching and learning has remained with me all my life.

Thank you. Cathy

 

Jeremy comments:

I was working soon after the publication of the Plowden Report, and as a fairly newly qualified teacher, was doing my best to use Plowden principles as the basis for my work. In the early 1970’s I was working a project-based integrated day, with a wide range of arts embedded into the curriculum. Over forty years later, the impact of this kind of child-based way of working is apparent. Here is a lady who celebrates the experiences she had as an 11-year-old girl.

I qualified in the late 1960’s from a 4-year B.Ed course which included a great deal of curriculum development, as well as a high profile given to child development. There was no “induction” in my first appointment as a probationary teacher, it was straight into a large full-time class. I had 42 children in a conventional square-box classroom in a large East London junior school. (This was before my Oxfordshire days) With terrific positive support from the brilliant Mike Windle, my first headteacher, I spilled out into the corridor, and generally around the school. There were no teaching assistants, or indeed any other support people. Ironically, although the work load was huge, it was probably less than primary teachers today as there was complete trust that teachers had the skills to get to know their children fully, and deliver exactly what each child needed.

Here’s a bizarre strategy from those distant days: Mike asked each member of staff to identify areas of the curriculum they were least happy with. He then gave each teacher a post of responsibility for the subject they were least sure of, prompting a great deal of “homework” to get to grips with the responsibility. I was made responsible for boys’ games! (And was never afraid of teaching sports again!)

 

The point of all this is many-fold:

1. To flag up the importance of a thorough training for all teachers, with knowledge of child development enabling them to plan for each child individually.

2. To note the importance of a good project-based primary phase – this is the time when a good teacher can really do a great long-term job for every child.

3. To recognise the huge amount of unnecessary work currently undertaken by primary teachers because no-one trusts them to understand children and work with them, giving them individually what they need.

4. The essence of a good primary teacher is to take risks, and with a good understanding headteacher holding a safety net, anything can happen.

5. No Ofsted, but some excellent HMI’s. In my first job in London I was particularly influenced by the outstanding mathematician, Edie Biggs.

6. I firmly believe I couldn’t have done this without the thorough training I had at Portsmouth Teacher Training college, which included three long teaching practices, the last of which was a full term’s work, fully in-charge of a primary classroom, in a school 100% committed to thematic project-work.

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When 2 + 2 = Maths Sense

A great host in Leeds Trinity University , the perfect partner in National Association for Primary Education and an inspiring maths seminar by Professor Ruth Merttens from Hamilton Trust was a wonderful combination for the students of LTU and local primary teachers in Leeds last week.

I was there supporting NAPE who helped enabled the event to take place. It is this kind of co-operation and support that we hope will serve teachers well and help the NAPE membership grow. The knowledge of all three organisations gave those who attended a real insight into what learning and teaching is all about.

As a parent I had long given up on knowing what the correct way of ‘doing maths’ should be when helping out with homework. I was so delighted to hear Ruth say that consistency is key not doing it a certain way. Having a plan of teaching throughout the school, year on year, where each class can build on the knowledge they have already gained in the same image as before. This is so simple and obvious but not always achieved. The layout of questions and the use of the same terminology or patter is so supportive for pupils.

I felt inspired and wanted to learn more. I no longer felt fear about how maths should be taught but engaged in the wonder of where the learning could take me. If only I had felt like that during my school days.

For examples of this work I suggest visiting the Hamilton Trust website which has a wealth of resources.

A big thanks must go to Associate Principal Lecturer Amanda Nuttall and her team at Leeds Trinity, for being the driving force in making such a great day possible. She is on the National Council of NAPE and it is by working together in such a creative way that I hope more joint events can take place to support both the LTU students and teachers in the area.

I am very glad to say one of the students I met on that day has agreed to be part of the Education on Fire podcast and we will follow their journey from trainee teacher to their first experiences in the profession. I hope this will give some valuable insights for both other students and teachers that have NQTs in their school.

Sign up to the newsletter and we will keep you posted when these bonus podcasts are released.

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The Five Habits of Happiness – Start with Gratitude

How Growing With Gratitude is supporting schools across the world nurture happy, successful and authentic children.

1. An Attitude of Gratitude

Students are guided to regularly think about, discuss and record the things they are grateful for in their daily lives and environment.

2. Random Acts of Kindness

Students are guided to plan for and regularly complete small acts of kindness.

3. Positive Reflection

Students are guided to reflect on and record the things that they are grateful for and any positive experiences they have.

4. Wellbeing Warriors

Students choose to complete a minimum of 15 minutes of exercise, read five pages of a book, make healthy food choices, or complete a mindfulness activity or meditation each day.

5. Operation Home Service

Students are guided to plan ways they can regularly help out at home e.g. doing the dishes or cooking dinner.

It is an easy-to-implement way with simple, ready-made resources that teachers like you can implement immediately in the classroom and that are backed by powerful research. This program works and most daily activities are only 2-10mins long.

 Take a look at www.growingwithgratitude.com

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Top 5 Teaching Tips I’ve Learned from Season 1

1. Be interested in your pupils and know their story.

2. It’s not just what you say but how you say it!

3. Be aware of what environment are you creating.

4. Build communities both within and outside of your school.

5. Look after yourself.

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1. Even in a large class a teacher can have an incredible personal impact on their pupils. Knowing what interests each pupil has and how to relate a lesson to them in that regard can be so engaging. Your interest and direct communication will make them feel comfortable, welcome and important in your class. This confidence will shine through and even a knowing smile will boost their energy more than a 5 minute chat.

2. How you frame your lesson and create the story of what you are learning has a big impact.   This was so brilliantly illustrated by Andrea and Seth Gardner in episode 004 when they     talked about their ‘Power of Words’ viral video. Finding a way to get an emotional connection to those you are talking to is a game changer. Make it relevant to now. How does the subject make you feel, how could you use it today.

3. Be really mindful – how you are has an affect on everyone else around you.

Are you positive?

Are you excited about your day or the next lesson?

Do you share the good progress you have made?

Are people aware of the interesting hobbies or pastimes you have out of school?

Or

Are you negative?

Can’t wait to gossip or share bad news?

Always talking about the day being nearly over?

Too much work?

Too tired?

Who would you rather be around?

If you are caught in a negative conversation how do you deal with it?

  • Shine the light on the opposing point of view
  • Walk away and don’t get involved
  • Avoid people who have a tendency to be negative.

I suggest just be more of yourself, whatever that is for you. There is nothing more powerful and engaging than someone being authentic.

Change the subject and ask questions that you think might encourage a negative person to engage differently.

As in number one it is not just pupils who want people to take an interest in them. We all do!

4. Find support in as many places as you can. I hope there are people within your school that are supportive and offer encouragement and help when you need it. But in this current world so many likeminded people can be found in online groups. You can be exposed to new ways teaching or a simple idea that changes your whole experience with a pupil.

Also remember you have valuable experience yourself. You presence in a group could be the thing that really helps someone else.

Be open and honest with people. That is true strength, not a vulnerability, as many people think.

5. Look after yourself. To be the best teacher for your class you have to be the best you.

Get the sleep you need.

Say NO to things and prioritise your time. It might give you more focus for your school related work or for something outside school. Either way balance is very important. You can’t inspire if you are dead on your feet and you certainly can’t if you are off sick.

Please share some things below that support you to be your best self.

I would love for you to leave a comment below with some groups that you recommend.

Eg On Facebook

Staffroom – resources and websites

Primary Teachers – Resources, ideas, stress relief

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