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“JUDGE A MAN BY HIS QUESTIONS RATHER THAN BY HIS ANSWERS”

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When is a blog not a blog? Blog: noun (informal) an online journal. Contraction of: web-log. This isn’t really a blog; it’s a repository, an archive of everything I write for various newspapers, magazines, websites, newsletters and books. Occasionally, I’ll feel inspired to write something exclusively for these pages, too. PLEASE NOTE: SOME OLDER ARTICLES HAVE BEEN MOVED OR REMOVED AS PART OF AN EFFORT TO SPRING-CLEAN THIS SITE AND KEEP IT LOOKING FRESH. WE APOLOGISE IF YOU ENCOUNTER ANY BROKEN LINKS. 

Selected blogs…

NEW! How do you learn the tricks of the teaching trade?

I bought a Border Collie pup recently and, at eight weeks, have just begun training her. I don’t want to sound disparaging but the experience has reminded me a lot of my NQT year: it is full of highs and lows. Sometimes the good advice I read in books and online works, sometimes it does not. Sometimes things go my way, sometimes they do not. Sometimes I am the very picture of patience and calm, sometimes I bop her on the nose and shout at her and then feel utterly remorseful when she stares at me with her puppy-dog eyes (never has that phrase meant so much). Sometimes Meg is obedient and attentive, quick to pick things up and respond; sometimes she is tired, hungry, naughty, bored, distracted, incontinent, and noisy. Sometimes I am the best teacher and she is the best student, sometimes we are neither of us these things… READ MORE


Should teachers take risks in the classroom? ALL 4 PARTS NOW AVAILABLE!

To become ‘outstanding’, schools need to focus their efforts on supporting teacher experimentation and celebrating best practice. But this is not quite as simple as freeing staff to “go their own way”. We may loosen the restrictions on autonomy but only in the sense of allowing and encouraging greater levels of collective autonomy (teachers working together to improve their practice by taking risks), as opposed to individual autonomy (teachers working in a purely idiosyncratic way), because standard professional practice provides the scaffolding that’s required for the exercise of truly professional rather than idiosyncratic judgement… Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four 

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How can I make project-based learning work in my classroom?

The first step towards encouraging students to produce high-quality work is to set assessment tasks which inspire and challenge them and which are predicated on the idea that every student will succeed, not just finish the task but produce work which represents personal excellence. We also know that the most effective assessment tasks offer students an opportunity to engage in genuine research not just research invented for the classroom. We know, too, that a student’s finished product needs a real audience and that the role of the teacher is to help students to get their work ready for the public eye. And what is the best way of delivering all of the above? The answer is project-based learning… PART ONE | PART TWO


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An emotional birth – a special blog for Father’s Day


What is outstanding teaching and learning?

There is no silver bullet, no secret formula for teaching outstanding lessons – what works is what’s best. The best thing to do, therefore, is to get to know your students by regularly assessing them and then to plan for progress by providing opportunities for all your students to fill gaps in their knowledge… READ MORE


When is a sequel not a sequel?

There’s a famous and possibly apocryphal story that Alan Bennett was asked to rename the film adaptation of his stage play The Madness of George III to The Madness of King George for fear that American audiences wouldn’t go to see it because they’d assume they’d missed the first two films in the trilogy. Teach 2 is a sequel of sorts but it’s not essential you’ve read the first book.  Teach 2 says some of the things I’ve learnt since writing the first book because – and isn’t this just the best thing about life – every day is a school day.  And if I ever need proof of that, I watch an episode of University Challenge.  Just when I think I know it all, I sit through half an hour of Jeremy Paxman (seemingly speaking a foreign language) and I realise that I’m a complete and utter moron. Whereas Teach was about the science of learning, Teach 2 takes us right back to basics, to the building blocks that make great teachers and great teaching… READ MORE


Why is the end also the beginning?

I had to say some fond farewells this week.  After nearly three years, I left Derby College to take up my next challenge. Although I confided this in no one, it was always my intention to commit to three years or stay until such a time as we were inspected and judged to be ‘good’. It now seems fortuitous, therefore, that the two events have almost coincided. This week was therefore my last and, although I can’t say I’ll miss those long daily commutes on the train, I will definitely miss all the staff who work at the end of the line… READ MORE


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What happened when an inspector called?

Most people get a phased return to work following illness; I got a week-long Ofsted inspection. I returned home late on Friday night after a week spent living out of a suitcase. My five-year-old daughter insisted on waiting up for me. Apparently, she’d sat by the window for three hours as I crawled up the M1 just so she could wave to me as I pulled onto the drive. One day, I’ll take her in my arms and tell her how every one of the 10,800 seconds she spent staring into the darkness was worth its weight in gold just to see her smile after a sleepless, stressful week… READ MORE


What are the five keys of teaching and learning?

Forget Christmas – in my house, the first week of December was much more festive. My family and I awoke early each morning and crept downstairs – nimble on our feet – to see if our New Vacuum had arrived. And one day, after a knock at the door and a signed chit, there it was, standing proud in the hall: shiny and new and beautifully designed, accompanied by its progeny of nozzles… READ ALL 5 PARTS HERE


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Why is my life like a macabre version of the Wizard of Oz?

For six months at the tail-end of 2015 my life was like a macabre version of The Wizard of Oz. I was in search of a new heart and a new brain because mine hadn’t been working very well. It wasn’t their fault; rumour had it, it was my damn kidneys started it. My kitchen cupboards resembled a well-stocked branch of Boots. I was on a cocktail of medication which controlled the main symptoms but some of the pills sedated me, some sent me loopy with hallucinations. I could smell smoke all the time and saw the world as if through a kaleidoscope. I felt like I was trapped in the 1970s. It was Hobson’s choice: continue to black-out, vomit, suffer chest pains and debilitating migraines or spend half the day struggling to get dressed and the other half confused by the dimensions of my own bathroom. For several months, I chose to stare at my shapeshifting shower in stupefaction. PART ONE | PART TWO


Is teaching as simple as ABC?

There is no silver bullet, no secret formula to teaching great lessons. What works is what’s best and the best thing to do, therefore, is to get to know your students – including by regularly assessing them – and to plan for progress by providing opportunities for all your students to fill gaps in their knowledge and skills. But here is some advice for new teachers on assessment, behaviour and curriculum… READ MORE


Should parents read bedtime stories?

Reading my daughter’s bedtime story is an innocent act that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care, it is my sore labour’s bath, the balm of my hurt mind, and the chief nourisher in my life’s feast. Our bedtime story makes the world seem a better place, it is an oasis of calm and order in an otherwise cold, cruel world… Part One | Part Two | Part Three


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What are the habits of a great teacher?

Click here to read Matt’s article for SecEd’s NQT Special

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