Don’t Be A ‘Mediocre’ Teacher

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

They stood at the front of the audience: seemingly ready to dazzle us all. They were all 18 years old and in the final term of high school. I was much younger then too – 26 years old and in my third year of teaching.

It was a Biology revision presentation. I’d invited my colleague to come along to watch (also a Biology teacher).

The presenters began their talk.

When it was over, I needed to take a paracetamol tablet. I was rather perplexed.

I let my colleague chirp in with some feedback first, thinking she would cover most of the points I wanted to raise.

“A great presentation. I loved the level of detail and research. Well done”

That was it?

studying with com

Now I found myself clenching my fist. I thought back to the late 90s when my dad received a ‘stress reliever’ doll one Christmas. It was basically a squishy, red, head-shaped rubbery thing in a pot that you could squeeze when you got a bit mad. It was joke gift of course: designed to cause a giggle or two; but I wished I had one right now.

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“An AMAZING book!”

“Mr. Rogers. What are your thoughts?” Asks my colleague.

After a barrage of questions which the students responded to with nervous looks and blank stares, I decided to give my merciless, but honest, feedback:

“Whilst I agree with my colleague that your research skills were good, there are still a few issues I’d like to address.

I’ll start with the negatives, then share my thoughts on what, if anything, was positive. All of you were reading directly off the slides and not making eye-contact with the audience. We can all read, so your method of presentation was not only boring but it was also patronizing. There was too much text on each slide. The material had not been properly referenced and the images you did use, though few, were of very low quality. You also superficially skimmed the surface of the topic, and didn’t even touch on issues such as splicing, introns and transposable elements.

On the positive side, you showed us all that you are very good at copying and pasting. You were also able to describe some of the concepts in some detail.

Please speak with me tomorrow morning during registration so that we can arrange a time to do this again”

Giving feedback

The ‘respect’ factor

Unfortunately, many of us in the teaching profession have been conditioned to dish out praise all day long for the most minuscule of things. A kid hands in a complete dog’s dinner of a homework and it’s “Well done for handing this in on time. Meeting deadlines is important”. 

I could go on with the spectrum of ‘non-confrontational’, politically correct garbage that I was conditioned to spew for another 1000 words, but I think that would be tedious.

I used to be one of those ‘praise everything’ teachers. Guess what I found out:

  • Praise only works when it is sincere
  • Praise only works when it recognises significant, meaningful achievements that have taken some work to accomplish
  • Praise is extra effective when preceded (NOT followed by) points for improvement

And guess what else I’ve found out – students respect us more when we are honest. They respect us when we tell them that they need to improve. They respect us when we are vigilant.

Explaining

Lots of research supports these findings. Here are two good examples:

  • A 2016 summary by Vanderbilt University found that praise works well when it is behavior-specific, and that a ratio of 4 praise statements to one reprimand works well for improving performance (if 4 praise statements are available for the work being assessed). Here are some examples of language changes we can make to turn praise into a kind of ‘disguised reprimand’ or ‘behavior enforcer”:
BSP Vanderbilt
Behavior Specific Praise. Courtesy of Vanderbilt University, 2016. See the publication entitled ‘Behavior Specific Praise in the Classroom’. Tennessee Behavior Supports Project.

Whilst this table is useful, I think it’s important to remember that reprimands must be specific and direct. “We don’t take other people’s property, because that causes suffering to another person. When you’re older, you can also get into big trouble with the police for that. You’ll need to write a letter of apology to Simon for what you did.”

  • A 2015 blog post by Brian Gatens at the University of Portland made the point that when teachers show honesty and compassion, they build trust with their students. Compassion doesn’t mean making kids feel good all the time – it means letting them know when they’ve under-performed, and caring enough to do something about it! It also involves celebrating and recognising significant progress, performance and attainment.

‘Mediocre’ Versus ‘Vigilant’

Here are some statements I’ve come up with which sum up the ‘Mediocre’ teacher, versus the ‘Vigilant’ teacher. I don’t mean to offend anyone here – I was once the Mediocre Teacher. I share my findings as a means of self-reflection for all of us. I still get a bit ‘mediocre’ at times, but at least I’m aware of how to spot that now:

  • Mediocre teachers record attainment and progress. Vigilant teachers record attainment and progress, quickly identify under-performance and then intervene to improve that.
  • Mediocre teachers praise the smallest of things. Vigilant teachers reserve their praise for significant, meaningful displays of effort, attainment and progress.
  • Mediocre teachers sometimes bring up points for improvement with their students. Vigilant teachers leave ‘no stone unturned’, and relentlessly monitor their students’ weaknesses and do the best they can to improve those.
  • Mediocre teachers don’t feel the need to be a ‘role-model’ for their students. Vigilant teachers understand that their words, actions and subliminal cues will act as points of reference for their students for many years to come.
  • Mediocre teachers mark their students work. Vigilant teachers provide feedback that’s meaningful and specific. 

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Should We Set Homework for the Summer Vacation?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

It won’t be long until our students (and us) will enjoy a long summer vacation. Sand, sea, sleep-ins and more time with the family. Sounds great!

sit n talk

In the UK, schools will close around mid-late July and reopen in early September. In America the summer holiday is much longer. Take New York, for example: Schools there will have their last day on June 26th, with students returning on September 5th. 

Some teachers and parents would say that young people need this summer vacation to rest, have fun and basically enjoy being a kid. Others would say it’s too long to be away from school work entirely, and some learning should still be taking place.

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“An AMAZING book!”

I say that it all depends on the age and needs of the individual students. 

Start planning now!

During this article I hope to convince you that the summer vacation can be used to our advantage. Effective teachers have used the summer vacation for decades to act as a ‘buffer’ – a chance for slower students to catch up; for able, gifted and talented students to be pushed even more; and generally for getting a little more material covered so that the new academic year can start a little bit ahead. 

talk n walk

However, in order for me and you to effectively make use of the summer vacation (so that our students benefit), we must start planning now!

Case #1: The exam-preparation class

Let’s say that you’re taking a group of students through a two-year course (such as the IB Diploma, IGCSEs or ‘A’ – Levels). 

In an ideal scenario, those two years would be broken up as follows:

Year 1: Cover as much content as possible (at least 60% of the syllabus). Complete all coursework if the timetable permits.

Year 2: Finish off any remaining content. Allow as much time as possible for revision and past-paper practice.  

I believe that a good way to get our kids to be ahead of the game before Year 2 is to set them a significant piece of summer homework that is achievable, but not too onerous. 

I’ve found the following tasks to be effective (sometimes I combine them both together):

  • Provide a booklet of notes and questions covering a topic that the students haven’t studied yet. When they get back to school after the summer, collect the booklets in. Check those booklets to make sure they are completed. Peer assess them and provide a one-week condensed summary of the topic in your lessons. Keep a record of who has and hasn’t scored well on the content, and intervene where necessary (e.g. with some after-school classes).
  • Give students a test on a topic they learned over the summer. Provide notes for the students to revise from. Analyse the grades and help out any students who haven’t performed well.

When both of these techniques are combined together powerful and deep learning can take place over the summer. This can give our students a head-start in Year 2, giving them more time to do revision and past-papers. 

card games

Case #2: Able, Gifted and Talented Students

These are students who we really want to push and encourage.

The summer vacation is a long-time to be away from formal education, and we don’t want these students to lose momentum or interest.

I’ve found that project work is particularly useful for these types of students. I usually set work based on the following procedure:

  • Find out what the student is really interested in. What does she have a passion for? (For example: hip hop dancing)
  • Think of ways that you can link your subject area to the student’s area of interest (For example: A project about vector mathematics as a model for the movement of a hip hop dancer during a routine)
  • Discuss the project with the student. Make sure it’s relevant and deep. Ask the student to come up with ways to process the information and present the final output. Perhaps a stop-motion animation will work well. Maybe the student prefers to do a performance. Maybe a project portfolio will work well.
  • Offer some kind of significant reward and recognition for the effort. Discuss the benefits (e.g. how this project will improve subject knowledge in a particular area). Speak with senior management about any material rewards that can be given (e.g. book tokens, medals, certificates or a trophy).
  • Follow through and keep our promises: We must make sure that we honour our promises to these students. If we’ve promised a medal, then we must damn well make sure that the kid gets a medal. If we’ve set the work, then we must fulfill our professional duty by giving feedback. 

PC activity with mouse pen

Case #3: Students who are falling behind

I’ve reached a stage in my career now where I just cannot allow poor performance to go unnoticed or unchallenged. It just bugs me too much.

For kids who haven’t been performing well, a good sit-down and chat with the students and their parents is an absolute essential before the summer, in my honest opinion.

Let’s say that you’ve had a biology student for one year and she just didn’t understand cells, human body systems and plant reproduction. Let’s say that this student failed all three tests for these topics.

If this student has not been given the opportunity to re-sit tests in these topics throughout the academic year, then it is our duty, I believe, to ensure that this material is covered over the summer. The student will have more time and, provided that the parents are aware and involved too, this should result in regular, productive revision and an increase in subject knowledge.

out-of-control

I’ve found the following techniques to work well for students who are falling behind:

  • Analyse the assessment data for the whole academic year. Identify the area or areas in which the student is performing poorly.
  • Look through all of the student’s work that you have to-hand. Is there any particular method or output that the student is really good at (e.g. website creation, drawing diagrams, making infographics, etc)?
  • Meet with the student and his/her parents. Discuss a way forward over the summer that involves the student completing meaningful work on the topics of weakness through an output that appeals to the student’s preferred learning style.
  • Check that the quantity of work is neither too much, nor too little
  • Decide on a way to assess the work

When planned properly, our summer holidays can become times when our under-performing students really turn their lives around and gain a renewed sense of purpose and confidence. 

Conclusion

Schools not ‘out for summer’ (sorry).

The summer vacation offers a powerful way for us all to push our students forward, allow our students to cover extra material and address weaknesses for those students who are struggling. 

This all involves some planning, though. 

I don’t know about you, but when my students break up for the summer in one month’s time, I’ll be ready. I’ll have had my conversations with parents, kids and SLT and my students will know exactly what to do in the months approaching the new academic year.

We owe them that. 

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Subtle Reinforcement: Techniques to Gradually Build Confidence and Character in our Students

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

He pulled me aside at the end of class as we were getting ready to go home. I had tremendous respect for my sensei, and his words, though few, always hit-home hard.

“You a look a mess, Richard. Why isn’t your gi ironed”

“My mum didn’t have time to iron it today”

“Your mum shouldn’t have to iron it for you. What are you: a man or a weasel? Take responsibility for your own life. Iron your own flippin’ gi and make sure you look tidy next lesson!”

A ‘gi’ is a karate suit, just in case you didn’t know. It’s made typically of heavy cotton drill and it’s plain white. Easy to get dirty; hard to clean. Even harder to iron.

But I wanted to win my sensei’s approval. I wanted to ‘be a man’ and take responsibility for my own karate, my own personal dress and personal presentation.

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Short conversations

It’s funny when I think about it now, but that short conversation with my sensei totally changed my life. It felt like I’d gone down a peg or two in his sight and opinion.

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I worked harder than ever before to train and to be the ‘perfect’ student: My gi was freshly washed and ironed every time (I asked my mum not to help – I was 11 years old and my sensei wanted me to ‘man up’). 

Years later, when I went to a local karate shop to buy a new karate suit, I happened to bump into my old sensei there that same day. 

“Richard, it’s flippin’ great to see you!”

“Me too, how you doing”

“I’m good. You still training?”

“Yeah I joined a Shotokan Club at uni”

“That’s flippin’ great. You know, I remember the kid who didn’t iron his gi and was very clumsy. Remember that conversation we had in the changing rooms that day?”

“Wow! Yes, sure. I remember you telling me off”

“Haha, yes. Well, I noticed a massive difference in you after that day. I was sorry to lose you when you left for uni – you were the best brown belt in the dojo”

Wow!!!

Clay class

That felt good. The fact that my old sensei remembered me, and remembered our conversation. That he genuinely took an interest in me – that was inspirational.

It reminded me of who I was, which brings me to my first tip of Subtle Reinforcement.

Subtle reinforcement tip 1: Remind your students of who they are

This is different to reminding students of their achievements – it involves reminding students of their character.

As an NQT I was full of enthusiasm, as we all are. I wanted to change the world ‘one student at a time’.

Suddenly, my chance came like a clap of thunder.

Walking down the corridor one day I passed one of my Science students. He was looking very depressed, and divulged to me that his girlfriend had just dumped him.

High five

“John, I know how you’re feeling right now. Trust me, I’ve been there. But see this as your baptism by fire. This is the moment where you realise how strong you are. This is the moment where you gain back control and focus on what you’ve been letting slide in your life. It’s her loss and your gain – now you have more time to perfect your BMX biking and become the best geographer in the whole school”

We part as men – his fist punches mine in a sign of solidarity. The lighting begins to fork in his soul. Already his mind is tuned in to my words. Already he starts to fight back.

He comes to class extra early, and gives 110% to each lesson. There’s a renewed respect for me as his teacher – he knows that I actually care. 

Five months later his final exams are approaching and he’s getting stressed out. I ask him how his revision is going.

“To be honest, sir, it’s going badly. I’m just so stressed with it all”

To which I reciprocate: “I remember the man who who didn’t let life beat him down when his girlfriend decided to walk away. I remember the man who achieved grade As and Bs across the board and impressed everyone in school with his complete turnaround.”

Then I lower my voice.

“I remember the man who came second place in the BMX  showdown at Westminster Park” 

“You know about that?”

“Your mum told me”

He walks away trying his best to hide a grin that cannot be hidden. He remembers who he is. He remembers how all it took was a change of focus to create vastly different results in his life.

He went on to get 96% in his End of Year Science exam: the highest in his year group.

projector interactive

Reminding our students of who they are renews their faith in themselves. This can have a dramatic impact on their lives.

Subtle Reinforcement tip 2: Remind your students of their skills and achievements

We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that the skills and achievements that students display outside of our subject areas are not relevant to us.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Benjamin was struggling in Science class. He found experimental work difficult because his fine motor skills were limited. His Special Educational Needs also affected his retention of written information in class. 

I started an ECA at school one year – website design. It was a very simple and easy ECA – the kids picked topics they loved and basically made websites about them. Each week they would update their content and share what they had done with the group.

Benjamin signed up for that ECA and absolutely took to it like a duck to water. I was actually quite surprised – his website was by far the best in the class. He just happened to have a ‘knack’ for it. 

Chapter 5 - drones and hacking

After the Christmas break I gave Benjamin a unique task:

“Benjamin – you are now my class Online Learning Chief. This is an important responsibility which I have not handed out lightly”

“Wow. Me? Why?”

“Because you are brilliant at web design. I’ve seen your great images on your site. I remember your portfolio of Minecraft tactics that you wrote in such a comprehensive way. From now on, I want you to do all of your homework online. When you’ve built up your website to a sufficient quantity, we’ll share it with the rest of the class as a revision resource. Deal?”

“Wow. Deal”

I follow through. For once in his school life, Benjamin actually gets recognised for something valuable. This wasn’t a participation medal for turning up on Sports Day. This was recognition of something significant that Benjamin actually possesses.

He goes on to raise his achievement by two grades that year – from an E to a C. This amounts to his biggest step-up in progress he has made in school, ever. 

robot

By reminding our students of their skills and achievements, we offer them solutions to daily problems. In a similar mission to that of differentiation, we aim to inspire the inner genius through methods that appeal to each student’s learning style.

Subtle Reinforcement Tip 3: Take the time to discuss progress

A quick two minute chat is all it takes. Bring the student to your computer and show him his grades for the year thus far.

Use this to congratulate or to offer advice for improvement.

This shows each student that you are ‘on the ball’: that you are alert to their progress and that you care about their grades. 

This approach is guaranteed to have positive outcomes, if dealt with in the mood of ‘passing on information’ rather than dishing out criticism. 

Subtle Reinforcement Tip 4: Be the person you want your students to be

This is the part of the article where I must try my best not to sound like a patronizing ignoramus. I’ll have a go.

Kids notice things about us. 

They notice the things we do, the way we look and the things we say, even when not spoken directly to the students who are listening.

Drawing upon our own life experiences can be a great way to get our students focussed on the right path.

The Science teacher who pulls out his vitamin box to show the students his daily supplementation for good health – this teacher is ‘living’ the subject. 

The maths teacher who takes part in World Maths Day along with the students shows that maths is fun – not just something for kids to do.

The P.E. teacher who genuinely stays in shape by hitting the gym a few times per week sets an excellent example for her students to follow, and respect. 

I want the very best for my students, but if my mouth is saying one thing whilst I do the exact opposite then I’ll end up becoming a laughing stock. 

That’s not a good place to be.

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Student Reinforcement Tip 5: Be there when they need you to be there

My IB Chemistry students were an amazing cohort of hard-working individuals. 

They needed my help a lot though.

It was not uncommon for random students to turn up at my room at lunch times and after school to seek help with questions, homework and coursework.

I could have chosen the easy option and made myself unavailable – I would certainly have gained more time and less work that way. But what’s the point in living like that?

I wanted my students to do well. I was happy to help when I could. 

There was a limit, of course, and they knew that. I wasn’t prepared to stay all night and help them – I had a life of my own too. But I was prepared to stay for a significant and suitable amount of time to help them out when needed.

The results were profound – they worked harder, enjoyed the subject more and made better progress. 

To be honest, I also felt a sense of satisfaction too. To me that’s the best reward of teaching – the knowledge that you’ve touched someone else’s heart. The knowledge that you’ve really made a difference. 

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The Effective Use of Detentions

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

The events in this article are based on actual occurrences. The names and, in some
instances, the genders of individuals have been changed to protect the individuals’
privacy.

He opened his laptop and started playing around, again. I hadn’t quite noticed until I’d gotten the rest of this Year 7 class to get their books open and start completing the questions that were on the whiteboard.

It took a good five minutes for them all to settle down.

They’d just been learning about the human body in the best way I could think of: They took apart a life-sized model of a human female (filled with plastic, life-sized organs) and completely rebuilt it.

It had gotten them quite excited; especially the boys, who thought that the mammary glands inside a female breast were completely hilarious!

The class then had to cut and stick a paper human body together – organs included. But he was taking too long.

mess around in class

Christopher was a happy and talkative kid, but his work-rate was slow. On two occasions that lesson I walked over to his desk to help out and remind him to speed up, as everyone else was ahead of where he was. He should have been able to get that work done quickly. He had no Special Educational Needs and his English proficiency had increased so much in three months that he had graduated from the E.L.D. programme.

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The only thing slowing him down was his chattiness.

I should have moved him sooner in the lesson – my mistake. 15  minutes before the end of the class I moved him to the front to sit next to me, where he couldn’t chat with friends and be distracted.

It wasn’t enough time.

I pondered the idea of giving him a detention. Break-time was straight after this lesson, so it would be easy for me to keep him behind for ten minutes to get that work done. 

The concept and purpose of detentions

Before we can fully understand how to use detentions effectively, we must first remind ourselves of what detentions are and, therefore, what their purpose should be. 

A detention is a period of time that is purposefully taken away from a student’s extra-curricular or non-curricular time. It may involve a teacher-supervised activity during a morning break, lunch or after school. 

Detentions are given to students for a wide-variety of reasons; some of which are more logical than others. Reasons for detentions (starting with the most logical and useful) can include:

  • Failure to complete homework or classwork
  • Poor attendance
  • Persistent lateness/lack of punctuality
  • Disruption to class activities through poor behaviour
  • Receiving a certain, set number of ‘warnings’ or ‘demerits’

Christopher’s case as an example to follow

The most logical and useful way to use detentions is time-for-time: time not spent completing homework or classwork should be compensated by time spent on detention.

Colorful classroom without student with board,books and globe - rendering

In Christopher’s case I decided to give the break-time detention. Here are the reasons for my choice:

  1. The Science lesson ended at break-time, so it was convenient for me to keep him behind in my class (I didn’t have the problem of, say, giving him a lunchtime detention for the next day and then having to remember that he is coming and maybe chase him up if he doesn’t come along). 
  2. Christopher would be exchanging his breaktime for time spent completing his classwork. He must do this, as he will fall behind if he doesn’t.
  3. The detention serves as a reinforcement of the teacher’s authority, and a stern reminder that a poor work-ethic just won’t be tolerated. It turns out that after only two such break-time detentions, Christopher pulled up his socks and began working at a reasonable pace during lessons. 

General tips for detentions that will save you many problems

Every detention must attempt to address or solve the problem that it was given for.

Consider the following:

  • Detentions eat up the teacher’s time as well as the students, so we really should only be giving out detentions when it is absolutely necessary (as in Christopher’s case above)
  • For homework that’s not done on time: call the perpetrating student or students to your desk for a quick one-to-one discussion at the end of class, or during a class activity. Express your disappointment, and why meeting deadlines is important. Relate it to the world of work, for example “If I didn’t write your reports on time, what would happen to me? That’s right, I’d be in big trouble”. Allow the students an extra day or so to get the work done. No need for conflict, no need to spend your precious lunch time giving a detention.
  • If students still don’t hand in the homework even after extending a deadline, then it is necessary to give a detention. CRUCIALLY, however, the purpose of the detention MUST be to complete that homework. Print the sheet again if necessary, provide the necessary resources and get the student to complete the work. This makes the detention less confrontational and reinforces the reason why it was given in the first place. 
  • The same goes for classwork: give students the chance to take their books home and complete classwork if it isn’t done on-time in class. Persistent slow work-rates in class, if not caused by reasonable circumstances (such as Special Educational Needs), should be met with detentions that allow the student to catch up. In almost every case you’ll find that the students will cotton-on to the fact that they can’t get away with distraction and laziness in class, and they’ll soon improve. For those that don’t improve even after focused detentions, further action will be needed and may involve parents and senior/middle management. 
  • For poor behaviour, detentions need to be planned and crafted really well. Remember: the detention should attempt to address or solve the problem that it was given for. I remember a couple of years back when two boys got involved in a bit of a scuffle in the science lab. It wasn’t anything major, but one kid said a nasty word to the other and that kid decided to punch his mate in the arm quite hard. As a Science Teacher, this is something I must absolutely nip-in-the-bud because safety in the lab is paramount, and kids just can’t scuffle or fight in there: period. I gave them both a detention for the next day at 1pm. They came, and I spent the time explaining to them why their behavior was unacceptable. They wrote letters of apology to me and each other, and left the detention understanding exactly why I had taken their time away from them. I didn’t have a problem with them again.
  • Lessons that end at break times work well for giving detentions if necessary, as you can easily retain the students when the bell rings. If you do assign detentions for the next day or at a later time, then pencil those into your diary – this will serve both as a useful reminder and as a record of who’ve you’ve given detentions to and how often. 

Recurring work 

I’m a massive believer in the power of recurring work and journaling, and have written about it in detail here and here

Learning journals are just great for giving regular recurring feedback and for consolidating and reviewing cumulative knowledge gained throughout an academic year. But did you know that Learning Journals save you many a supervised detention too?

Many schools provide homework timetables for students and teachers to follow. With the very best of intentions, these timetables aim to distribute student and teacher workload evenly and fairly. However, they can prove difficult to follow when units include different intensities of work, and when school events get in the way.

That’s where Learning Journals come in!reading

Set Learning Journals as homework each week. The basic idea is that students buy their own notebook and fill it with colorful revision notes on a weekly basis (although they can be done online too: through Google Sites, for example). Perhaps your Year 10 class could hand-in their learning journals in every Wednesday, and collect them from you (with feedback written inside, see the articles cited above) every Friday. By setting up a register of collection that the students sign, you can easily see who hasn’t handed in their journal that week.

Then……follow the guidelines given above for dealing with late or un-submitted homework. You’ll find that after a few weeks of initiating Learning Journals you’ll get a near 100% hand-in rate, because the students are really clear about what is expected each week, because it is a recurring homework. 

Whole school considerations

Many schools adopt a popular (but massively problematic) ‘mass-detention’ system of some sort, which works something like this:

  1. The student receives the requisite number of ‘warnings’ in a particular lesson which lead to a break or lunch time detention being given
  2. The student is sent to a room with other students from the school who’ve also received detentions
  3. Teachers supervise the ‘detention room’ on a rotating basis, thereby (in theory), sharing the workload across the staff body
  4. The students are given generic tasks to do during the detention time, which may include filling in a form, completing homework or in the very worst cases just sitting still and being quiet for twenty minutes or so.

The problem with systems like this is that they are not personal to the students receiving the detentions. They do not follow the ‘golden rule’: that detentions should address or solve the problem that they were given for.

What’s much more effective in the long-term is to trust individual teachers to administer their own detentions. Perhaps provide a quick training session based on good practice (feel free to use this article if you wish), and allow the teachers to then use their judgement to decide when and how detentions should be given.

Conclusion

Student detentions are only effective when they have the ‘personal touch’. When detentions address the original issue by allowing more time to complete homework or classwork, or allow for a one-on-one discussion about behaviour, the following magical things happen:

  • The detention is given from a standpoint of care and concern, not confrontation and aggression
  • Students realise the reason why the detention was given as this reason is reinforced by the activities given during the time of the detention
  • Students improve. It’s that simple. Mass detention systems rarely work because they don’t pinpoint the personal reasons behind why the student is under-performing. Detentions with the ‘personal touch’ cause students to realise their errors and most, if not all, will improve in a short space of time. 

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The ‘Care Factor’: Changing Lives One Student at a Time

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

They were each given a stack of small cards as they entered the classroom. Each set was unique. No two students had the same stack of cards.

The kids were intrigued.

with-ukedchatAttached to the classroom walls were ten large diagrams of different human body systems – the digestive system, the respiratory system, the circulatory system and so on.

The kids had to stick their cards to the diagrams to effectively label the different organs.

Some cards had names, some had descriptions.

It was a lot of fun. The kids were moving, talking about the work and learning new things just by doing this activity.

Following this the students played some learning games, completed a textbook question and ended the lesson with a ‘Think, Pair, Share’ plenary activity. 

Some would say that this was a great lesson. But why?

alphabetic mat

The push protocol

Is a grade D an acceptable grade for any student?

Keep that question in mind for a minute or so.

A 2013 study by researchers at the University of California found that increased student engagement and excitement in class can, actually, lead to less effort being put into assignments and homework. In striking and surprising addition to this, increased engagement within lessons did not lead to increased results on tests and assessments. 

This study is corroborated by what I’ve found time and time again: that singing, dancing and keeping the kids entertained is just not enough (but we need to do it anyway, because it still serves an important purpose).

Teacher’s in Western pedagogical systems have unfortunately been conditioned to believe the following:

  1. That as long as the kids are engaged, well-behaved and enjoying the lesson then that’s all that matters (especially for a formal observation)
  2. That progress, not attainment, is the defining factor in a child’s success and the benchmark against which teacher-quality should be assessed. If a 16 year-old student, for example, has achieved a grade E in Term 1, and then gets a D in Term 2, then good progress has been made.

In fact, what I’ve found is that active engagement strategies coupled with effective and regular feedback and coaching/mentoring are the ingredients needed to push students to achieve top grades. 

Relentless vigilance

So for that kid who’s not on the S.E.N. register and who’s not operating with English as a second language: is moving from an E to a D in one term in the final year of IGCSE studies really acceptable?

box seats

We often try to quantify predicted grades with ‘intelligence tests’ too, such as ALIS, CAT4 and CHEM. Certainly, if a student is achieving lower than their predicted score from these tests, then that is a cause for concern. But what if a student is meeting their target: is that enough?

In my honest opinion, we can all get students to exceed their targets by genuinely showing our care for them through Relentless Vigilance. But what is that?

Imagine the kid who rushes a homework and hands in an incomplete mess, when normally he hands in good stuff. Do we let it go with just a low grade and brush it off as a ‘one-off’, or do we take more action?

How about the kid who consistently scores poorly on tests for no apparent reason? Do we just record the grades, spot any minimal progress the student might be making and leave it at that? Do we consign ourselves to the belief that’s “She’s just a low achiever”, and leave it there?

The answer to all of this is that student achievement should bug us so much that we simply cannot allow or accept poor achievement to take place at all.

Continent Investigation

Relentless Vigilance is when we follow everything up. The messy homework? – a one-on-one conversation and the chance to do it again is appropriate. If we allow the mess to happen once, then it’ll happen again. 

The kid who consistently scores poorly on tests – set up an intervention strategy. Maybe get the student to keep a learning journal every week, so that he or she absolutely must revise for the tests. Set up a weekly meeting with him to record progress and discuss learning. Set differentiated work that matches the child’s learning style (but don’t spend an unreasonable amount of time on this). Find out what his or her learning style actually is. Explain the importance of regular revision. Get the student to e-mail a paragraph to you every day to describe what they’ve revised in their own time and at home.

Professional Intelligence and The Care Factor

I’ve written about professional intelligence before but I believe its power requires a second mention.

I’ll illustrate its use with a true story.

Just the other week one of my students came to see me to show me a video of her dancing in a local dance competition. She described the people there, how long she had trained and the upcoming competitions and her future goals. I asked her questions about the whole thing. I was genuinely interested.

studying with com

Now you might be thinking “Okay, so what the hell does that have to do with her attainment in Chemistry”. Answer: everything!

  1. Why did she come to show me the video? – She saw me as an approachable teacher. She likes me. She wanted a sense of validation through praise from someone she respected (whether consciously or unconsciously). She wanted to share a life experience, and her goals for the future.
  2. How does this help with her attainment? – I have written her achievement in my Professional Intelligence Journal  – a catalogue of all of the professional things I learn about my students. In a few weeks time I’ll ask her about her dancing, using vocabulary that is specific to her context. I may even be able to use her interest in dancing in a future science lesson (e.g. by delivering a lesson on forces and motion acting on a break-dancer).

What does this all boil-down to in the end?:

Students perform well in subjects in which they like the teacher, and in which the teacher genuinely likes them and enjoys teaching them. Students respect a teacher who follows things up, provides regular feedback and is genuinely and profoundly concerned abut their future welfare and success. 

Stories personal to me

Two tales that illustrate the above emboldened proverb (okay, that’s a generous self-appraisal ;-D ):

My mathematics teacher in high school – Strict as hell and scared the living daylights out of anyone who dared to disrespect him. Excellent teacher. Gave clear and concise lessons each time, marked work quickly and spoke with you face-to-face if there was an issue. Most of his students got A’s and A*s.

Me at 22 years old – I was at a high school reunion and I boyishly wanted to tell my old teachers about my success in getting my degree and being accepted onto a PGCE course. Even in my early adulthood I was seeking validation from people who I knew would care, would listen, who I respected and, at least in my imagination, would be proud of me. 

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Actually Giving a Damn: The ONLY Thing That Matters?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

The events in this article are based on actual occurrences. The names and, in some
instances, the genders of individuals have been changed to protect the individuals’
privacy.

The aroma of coffee did little to awake the senses. For a sleepy NQT who was in his first week back at school after the Easter vacation the old routines were a sharp shock the system.

“I’ve got 9Q this morning” – pipes in one colleague.

“Don’t expect much outta them. You might as well bang your head against a brick wall for an hour.”

I stayed quiet – always the best policy in a moaning-match like this. But my silence was justified by another undercurrent.

poll everywhere

The ‘care’ factor

Surprisingly, I’d been doing really well with 9Q. Granted: they were a bit noisy and couldn’t sit still for more than ten minutes (most of them, anyway). But I liked their energy – I saw their youthful vitality as something to draw upon.

“Mr. Rogers” shouts John in a funny voice

“Your tie looks like human vomit”

To which I laughed and replied  – “Well done for bringing Biology into our lesson today”, to which there were giggles from the whole class. 

After that the class did a cut-and-stick activity on chemical reactions, and when we peer-assessed the task I said “Guess what – you’ll find a lot of carbon and hydrogen atoms in human vomit, so once again I thank John for his intuitive reference”

The class roared with laughter.

John does a little dance on his chair like some American rapper.

out-of-control

The wrong approach

These interactions just mentioned demonstrate the power a teacher can wield when he or she actually likes the kids they teach. When we care for and admire our students for the unique people they are, everything else just falls into place naturally.

With UKEdChat

I believe that teacher-training colleges and school inspectorates have been getting their emphasis fatally wrong for decades. Focusing on lesson methodologies such as differentiation techniques, feedback mechanisms and behavior management: they have missed the vital component that crucially determines student welfare and academic success – that kids need to know that the teachers actually give a damn about them. 

Over the coming two weeks I’ll be exploring this ‘care factor’ (which I believe is the only thing that actually matters when scrutinizing the fiber of a successful teacher’s character).

Let’s see this in action this week, so that a greater understanding of it’s power can be realised. 

He just doesn’t ‘get it’

In a previous school I was teaching at I had a Year 10 student who had come to me from Germany. He was quiet and compliant in class but a little lack-luster and disinterested.

He completed two Chemistry end-of-unit tests in Term 1, scoring horrendously in both (30% below the next lowest student).

I could have used the old adage many teachers find themselves using: “It just doesn’t sink in with him”, “He just doesn’t get it” and “He doesn’t do enough work at home”.

If I wanted to, I could easily have passed on this failure to the student: alleviating me from all responsibility. 

I just couldn’t do that. This bugged me too much.

“If this student carries on like this then he will surely fail. The consequences for his life choices afterwards could be enormous and who’s fault would that be? That’s right, Richard, it would be your fault, because you and you alone are responsible for this kid’s success in Chemistry.”

This is what I told myself.

The next lesson came and I took this kid aside at the end of the lesson, when it was quiet and only I and him could talk. I said to him “Hi John, let’s have a chat. Let’s take a look at these results.”

I shown him his test scores, and how low they were compared to the rest of the class.

“John, I don’t know what’s going on, but I know that you are capable of more than this. I know that you can do much better.”

“I’ve seen the great diagrams you draw in class, and I’ve heard your great responses to verbal questions. I know that you have the ability to do so well in Chemistry.”

“Help me understand, John. Help me understand why these grades are so low.”

John replies – “I guess I just don’t revise enough at home”

“Well, John. We can’t carry on like this. We just can’t. If you continue to get scores like this then you will fail this whole course. John, I cannot let that happen. I care about you too much.”

“In our next test you must get at least 60%. You must. Do you understand, John.”

Jon replies – “Okay, sir. I’ll try.”

“No. No trying. Do it! Do it because I believe in you. Do it because even though it’s difficult you know that this is the moment when you can prove to yourself just how great you are. Do it for the respect you’ll earn within yourself – self respect.”

We end with a macho display of brotherhood – I hold out my fist and he taps his fist against mine.

High five

The corridor tactic

I see John on the corridors at lunchtimes and break times. Now he knows that I’m on his case. He knows that I care about his grades.

“How’s the studying going, John” I say as I pass him by.

“Great, sir”

“That’s good, John, because I know that you are a hard-working student”

This reinforcement continues day after day, week after week until the next test comes.

The success protocol

Before John takes his test I tell him “Go for it. I know you can do this!”

He scores 64%.

I make a massive deal out of it. He gets merits, a note in his diary and a congratulatory e-mail sent to his parents to tell them of his success.

I take him to the Head of Year, and tell him how proud I am of the effort he has made.

John is beaming with pride and happiness.

be enthusiastic

The belief protocol

Now John knows, with full supportive evidence, that he can achieve anything he puts his mind too.

All it took was some effort by a teacher: directed in a way that would make him realise his full potential; his full power

John continues along this route, scoring higher and higher as the weeks go by. He comes out with a grade A in IGCSE Chemistry.

This is not a tale of fiction – it’s one of many stories I can recount over the course of my twelve years as a teacher. I have learnt that genuine, heartfelt care and concern for our students can literally and completely change their lives for the better, and forever.

From this care comes the standard teaching methodologies – all of which are great and work well, but only when they are built on the foundation of “It is my responsibility that these kids succeed. I will not let them down. I will not leave anyone behind. I will not allow any student to under-perform.”

More to follow in the next few weeks.

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How Can Teachers Earn Extra Money?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

“Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.” – Chris Gosser

Teachers are incredibly skillful individuals. We’re good communicators, we’re patient (that’s a no-brainer) and we’re good listeners.

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With ingenuity and a bit of personal drive, we can utilize these skills in a number of ways to gain some much-appreciated extra money and experience:

#1 – Private Tutoring

A teacher’s staple when it comes to cash-on-the-side. If you’ve not tried it, then you’re missing out on a massive opportunity!

High five

As a veteran of 12 years of tutoring, my top tips are as follows:

  • Become confident in teaching more than one subject: I’m a Science teacher but I’ve successfully tutored students in German, English, Science, Maths, UKCAT and BMAT over the years. Expand your skill’s portfolio and willingness to leave your comfort zone and reach a larger market!
  • Post on websites where parents are looking for tutors: Facebook groups and pages, Craigslist and Learn Pick are all good and have all generated student leads for me in the past
  • Try to find out the exact topics the student wants to learn in advance of the lesson – this will give you time to create great resources
  • Teach well! – Be yourself, be professional. Students will love your style and will tell their friends: bringing extra customers to you via referrals!
  • If the students live far away, then bring them to you – I’ve tutored at coffee shops and even at my home in the past. When students need tuition they’ll be prepared to travel.
  • Offer group classes – $70 for one student for two hours or $10 an hour per student for 5 students for two hours? Group classes can offer benefits in terms of teaching (peer-assessment and group activities) and help you to maximize revenue.

#2 – Becoming an examiner

Most exam boards recruit examiners on a yearly basis. It’s hard work and deadlines are tight (generally), but the money can be very, very good. Check out exam boards like Edexcel, CIE, the IBO, AQA and others.

Teacher-led assessment

#3 – Selling your resources

A number of platforms on the web allow you to sell your worksheets, presentations and other resources to other educators. Check out the following:

#4 – Writing

Set up a blog to inform teachers about good techniques, or even a subject-specific blog for students. After a few years or less, convert the posts into an e-book and sell your knowledge to others!

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What Should Schools Teach?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

I often like to listen to my favourite YouTubers in the early morning. For me it’s wake up, go for a run, then shower with my iPhone blasting out some stimulating interviews, lectures or discussions. 

At one point this week I was listening to an excellent and thoroughly interesting interview with the renowned David Icke in which he made a statement that really got me thinking: “I hear of lot of debate about HOW children should be taught, but very little about WHAT they should be taught”.

talk n walk

As a teacher I think this is a very important issue and I’d like to offer David a considered response. 

Update: June 2018 – I’ve made a video outlining the top 3 things that all schools should teach. Enjoy:

10 Things I Wish I Was Taught at School

I’m one of those few people who can actually say that I use the stuff I was taught in school on daily basis in my job. I’m a Science Teacher: so naturally I’m teaching my students almost the same things I was taught at school.

With UKEdChat
“An AMAZING book!”

However, there are a lot of things I had to work out by myself when I left school. Was ‘personal experience’ the best way to learn these things? 

I don’t think so. 

Many years of hardship and pain could have been avoided had (much) greater emphasis been placed on these ten things whilst I was at school: 

#1 How to manage money

Surely this should be a school staple, shouldn’t it?

I was taught how to manipulate equations and a little bit about compound interest, but a more intense and focussed ‘Money Management’ curriculum would have helped me and so many of my friends. 

jenga

Kids need to know about budgeting. They need to understand how credit cards, credit ratings, debt, home loans, savings accounts, interest rates and investments (such as bonds and mutual funds) all work. They need to know how to avoid debt in the first place, and how to climb out of debt if they fall into it. They need to understand the importance of saving and investing whilst they are young. They need to know how to assess financial risk.

How many schools are teaching this? Almost none, and that’s a tragedy. 

#2 How to manage emotions (especially worrying)

Humans are emotional creatures, and life can test us to the limit at times. 

How do you deal with worry? What makes you angry or frustrated? What makes people do silly things sometimes? Lust? The ego?

With the advent of the Mindfulness in Schools Project in 2009, educators began to see how self-observation can be taught to students as a meaningful way to avoid unconscious reaction. 

being-told-off

Just think of the problems that this philosophy could solve, were it taken seriously and implemented nationwide. A fifteen minute meditation session per day, for example, could help students become calmer, more focused in lessons and even more willing to embrace self-acceptance, making life more enjoyable.

As for the emotion of worrying….the statistics speak for themselves. According to the Anxiety Association of America:

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (which equates to around 18.1% of the population every year).
  • Anxiety disorders can be treated easily, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
  • Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. 

In my personal opinion, kids need to know this stuff! Yet how many schools offer a rigorous ‘Worry Combat’ curriculum? Almost none.

Yet again, it’s one of things we kind of have to figure out by ourselves (and many people never figure it out). 

Scientists have also found strong links between stress and cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. 

I think it’s high time that kids were taught about the effects of worry and how to tackle it as part of a national curriculum strategy. Here’s a book I think should be compulsory reading for every school student (click on the book to take you to the Amazon sales page):

220px-How_to_Stop_Worrying_and_Start_Living

#3: The importance of a healthy lifestyle

Schools are getting better at this but much more needs to be done to emphasise the urgency of this issue with our students. 

The world is facing an obesity crisis.

Those words aren’t my anecdotal musings – they’re substantiated by lots of data. The Word Health Organisation publishes statistics on global obesity and in their most recent report (dated February 2018) they state:

  • Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975
  • 41 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2016
  • Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016

The report also states that obesity is preventable, which is true: a balanced diet and good physical exercise, when embedded from an early age, can dramatically reduce the chances of adolescent and adult obesity and associated health problems. 

In Japan, schools take health education to a whole new level. Students are actively involved in designing the school’s lunch menu based on nutritional value. For Japanese schools, lunchtime is just as much a part of education as Science and Mathematics. 

Beginning in elementary school, kids come to understand that what you put into your body matters a great deal in how you think and feel throughout the day.

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Lunchtime is a part of Japenese students’ education.

“Japan’s standpoint is that school lunches are a part of education, not a break from it.” – Masahiro Oji, a government director of school health education, told the Washington Post in 2013. 

A good model for school’s around the world? I think so. 

#4 To question everything

We go through school believing that if something is written in a textbook, then it absolutely must be true. 

It is understandable that this viewpoint is encouraged from an early age: students must believe in the integrity of what they are learning in order to take it seriously.

But is this the right approach in a rapidly changing world, where young people need to be better problem solvers and critical thinkers than any other generation before them?

Sometimes the concepts contained in school textbooks are simplified so much (to make them accessible) that they become completely different to the truth. 

A classic example is atomic structure. We’re all taught that an atom looks like the classic ‘Bohr Model’, with electrons orbiting a central nucleus in concentric circles:

Atom Model

But did you know that this model of the atom was actually rejected in 1925? Yet it is still taught to this day in high school chemistry courses.

Perhaps a research-based approach is best for today’s learners and gadget-savvy whiz kids. Is it really necessary to simplify everything? Is it wrong for students to learn the truth about atomic structure (and other topics) even though the knowledge may be advanced and considered ‘above the level of their age group’? 

Shouldn’t we be challenging students to accept nothing until enough evidence suggests the theory as being truth?

#5: To respect other peoples’ rights to an opinion

This is a no-brainer, yet statistics on bullying suggest that more needs to be done. 

Stopbullying.gov (a US government organisation) compiled a fact sheet based on a variety different studies and reports that:

  • 70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools (2007).
  • 70.4% of school staff have seen bullying. 62% witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41% witness bullying once a week or more (2007).

In the U.K. the statistics reveal an equally disturbing picture. In a 2016 survey carried out by Ditch the Label (a U.K. based anti-bullying charity), it was found that:

  • 1.5 million young people (50%) were bullied in the year prior to the survey
  • 145,800 (19%) of these were bullied EVERY DAY
  • People who have been bullied are almost twice as likely to bully others
  • Twice as many boys as girls bully (66% of males vs. 31% females)

Clearly, these figures are unacceptable and much, much more needs to be done to address bullying in schools. 

out-of-control

I would suggest that anti-bullying initiatives must focus on education, not on more sanctions for students who bully.

The following strategies should be taken on by every school:

  • The United Nations declared May 4th as ‘Anti-Bullying Day‘. What does your school do on May 4th? Consider holding a theme-based day with activities in which kids can get to know about each other’s cultures and preferences better and learn to appreciate diversity. 
  • Diversity, religious freedom, human rights and bullying education as part of a comprehensive PSHE curriculum at all levels of school (even up to and including pre-university students) 
  • Assigning student buddies
  • Having an assigned member of staff act as a school counselor
  • Education on cyber-bullying and school-wide implementation of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym given below:

SMART

The U.K. government’s 2017 guidance on preventing and tackling bullying is also well-worth a read. 

#6 To value creative arts

Creative arts are more important now than ever before. As the world becomes more connected to mobile technology; good images, music and graphics can really make the difference when it comes to marketing products, attracting web traffic and getting your message across.

Let’s be brutally honest – this blog would not be even half as popular as it is if it wasn’t for Pop’s beautiful images. I didn’t take art as seriously as I should have done when I was at school, so I already have a skills deficit that can only be filled in by my excellent illustrator.

PC activity with mouse pen

Gone are the days when Science, Maths and English paraded at the summit of our educational Everest. The age of the games animator, thumbnail and avatar engineer, app designer and social media marketing expert is upon us!

#7 To respect the natural environment

Schools are quite good at this in general, but there are some easy-to-implement strategies that can further improve this area:

  • Having recycling bins on site as opposed to standard trash cans
  • Creating an ‘eco-garden’ on school premises where students learn how to plant, grow, harvest, protect and nurture plants and crops
  • Recognising global events like Earth Day and World Environment Day with whole-school theme days and activities
  • Getting students actively involved in cleaning up the school environment through eco-clubs and environment committees
  • Again: rigorous environmental awareness education through the school’s PSHE programme

#8 Public speaking

An increasingly important skill which is not developed enough in schools.

The power of ‘voice’ as the number one marketing tool of the future has been recognized in a number of influential books including Storyshowing by Sam Cawthorn and Ultimate Guide to Platform Building by Wendy Keller.  

There’s just no room for shyness these days.

I often tell my students who are interested in business that they need to start building their platform now. They need to build up followers on social media channels (provided the students meet minimum age requirements) if they want to build up a brand name for themselves.

I’ll use myself as a ruthless example.

award

I started blogging back in 2016, almost a year after my book was published. In late 2016 I set up my Facebook page and in two years, on a modest budget and through my weekly blog, it’s built up to a following of around 1500 great fans and readers.

But just imagine if I’d have had the sense to start all of this when I was 20. That would have been 15 years of platform building!

One of the best ways to build your platform is through voice: videos, writing and having the confidence to get up front and show your talents and skills. 

Public speaking should be a compulsory element of school education. Opportunities for students to develop their skills through conferences, plays, shows, group presentations, TEDx talks, peer-teaching and online publishing should all be fully integrated into school curricula. 

#9 Manners and etiquette

As teachers we absolutely MUST be role models for our students. 

But what does that mean?

“There’s no such thing as an off-duty teacher” – These words were words spoken to me when I was an NQT.

I think those words are true.

I never saw any of my teachers drunk or smoking, and even on my graduation evening when some teachers came out for a drink at a local restaurant with the students, they acted responsibly.

Our students look to us for guidance and see us as a moral compass – we’re not just sages who impart knowledge without substance.

The way we dress, the way we speak, the way we act: all of these things are picked up by our students. 

Are we careful in saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’? Are we careful not to swear or use expletives within earshot of our students? 

We absolutely must keep the subliminal messages we send in mind as we go about our daily lives. 

As for table manners, correct speech (elocution) and common courtesy: these should be on the curriculum. 

#10: How to teach themselves

According to a report published by computer giant Dell Technologies, 85 per cent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet.

Phrased another way: we are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies and techniques that have not yet been invented. 

Whilst teachers have known for decades that computers were set to take over vast areas of business operations, the scale of the acceleration has been surprising even to the industry experts. 

In order to really get our kids ready for the future we must teach them how to teach themselves. Constant re-training and skills upgrades will be the name of the game for years to come.

We need to think about ways in which we can get our students to evaluate their work as they go along. 

Take a look at the evaluation form, given here, and consider ways to make learning more I.T. integrated. 

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The War on Masculinity in Schools: A Growing Epidemic?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati (and some images have been sourced from Pixabay.com)

Updated on 25th October 2017. Reposted April 19th 2018.

NOTE TO READER: The author wants to make it clear that all people should be respected regardless of gender, sexuality, race or religion. As civilized people, we should be tolerant towards those who are law-abiding and have different opinions, behaviors, cultures or beliefs to us. This article acts as an introduction to the issue of gender-identity education in schools and childhood and the effect this has had, and is having, on masculinity and ‘manliness’ in some cultures and countries. 

Five years old and I was glued to the TV watching WWF wrestling. The wrestlers’ muscles, their machoness, their swagger, their attitude, their power – I wanted it all. I even had the toy wrestlers and the ring, and I and my brother would fight it out (often literally, which really annoyed my mum).

vr

I was a boy, for sure. No-one could tell me otherwise. At that age I didn’t really like to play with girls and I opposed everything deemed ‘girly’. I hated the colour pink, and I would never, ever play with girls’ toys.

At that time I was surrounded by good male role-models. As a child of the eighties, I was lucky enough to enjoy ‘film night’ at my dad’s house every Saturday. Me, my brother and my dad would watch movies like ‘Predator’, ‘The Terminator’, ‘Enter the Dragon’, ‘Lethal Weapon’, ‘Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves’ and ‘Die Hard’. 

The male heroes of these movies were presented as strong, intelligent, caring, brave and moral men. They stood up for people in need, they weren’t afraid of bullies or opposition and they did what was right, no matter what. These traits of masculinity were further embedded by the instruction of my father, and later by the great coaches and instructors I had in Shotokan Karate classes (which I still do to this day) and the Army Cadet Force. 

Army cadet
Me as a 14-year-old Army Cadet instructor

My coaches were not misogynists or chauvinists. They wanted me to do well. They encouraged me to fend for myself and not to rely on my parents too much – to take on the role of a contributor and a leader, to help my parents out and to be a good role model: a male role model. A man of courage, morality and decency. A person who worked-hard, but who would never disrespect someone who was underachieving or who needed help. 

I was secure in my identity as a boy and a young man. My early childhood was filled with good male-role models and I didn’t need special classes or training to know that I was a male. My security and identity as a ‘young man’ happened naturally, as it does for almost every boy. In fact, my Year 2 teacher once made me sit exactly on my seat with a very convincing threat: “Richard, if you sit on another seat you’ll turn into a girl!”. I stayed put! It worked!

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“An Amazing Book! 10/10”

Fast forward to today and we’re looking at a totally different dynamic. The teacher who said those words to me 30 years ago could get into some trouble for saying those same words today. This is concerning.

The Feminisation of Society?

A number of high-profile individuals have spoken publicly about the feminisation of men in recent times. One such person is Camille Paglia, Professor at the University of Arts in Pennsylvania, who stated in an interview for the Wall Street Journal that “What you are seeing is how a civilization commits suicide”. In the interview, she makes the point that ignoring the biological differences between men and women risks undermining Western civilization.

Some critics blame the cosmetics industry, saying that adverts portraying the modern man as prim, pretty and preen like a woman are contributing to the feminine behaviors that so many are now observing in modern men. Most notably, Tomi Lahren, political commentator at Fox News, went so far as to say that “growing a beard and wearing a flannel shirt doesn’t make you a man if you still can’t change a light bulb,” before concluding that ‘helpless’ young men now prove to be “slim pickings for women”. She also caused a storm with this very thought-provoking tweet, suggesting that millennial men would be unfit for military service:

But is there any truth in all of this subjective criticism of modern men? What does science have to say on the matter?

Biological Male Parameters

In a study completed last year, researchers discovered that the grip strength of a sample of college men had declined significantly between 1985 and 2016. In fact, it has declined so much – from 117 pounds of force to just 98 pounds, that it now equals that of older Millennial women. The average college male now has an equal hand strength to a 30-year-old female.

Alongside this concerning decrease in male physical strength, sperm counts and testosterone levels continue to plummet. According to researchers, sperm counts in men from America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe have fallen by a whopping 50 percent in just under 40 years. Testosterone levels have shown a similar trend, falling by 1% per year since the 1980s.  Another study of Danish men revealed similar results, with declines in testosterone consistently above 10% among men born in the 1960s, compared to those born in the 1920s.

High five

For some men, the shame of discovering why they can’t conceive a child is almost unbearable. A number of my friends have had the bombshell of “You’re infertile” dumped on them mercilessly by a doctor. One of my friends sadly took to alcohol after finding out why he and his wife couldn’t conceive a child. Soon after, the alcohol took his life.

As infertility clinics pop up left right and centre across the world, not enough is being done to address the emotional consequences of male infertility on couples and on men, in particular. The root causes of such drastic increases in male infertility are also not being addressed or even questioned by many of the doctors who are all too happy to cash in on the booming business of fertility treatment: making huge profits in the process.

Some scientists are even warning about the threat of human extinction in the near future, as sperm counts show no signs of rising. 

So what’s happening in schools?

One may think that there should be a massive drive to provide provision for boys in schools and encourage positive male development, especially when one considers the evidence just mentioned. Men are becoming increasingly effeminate; so surely the schools must be doing something to address this issue, right? Surely there must be a drive to increase the profile and understanding of masculinity with projects such as male-identity classes, increased provision for competitive sports and a big drive to provide nutrition in schools that offers wide-spectrum support for developing boys and girls. 

In fact, in Western cultures, the exact opposite seems to be happening. The feminisation of men and boys is at best tolerated, and at worst: encouraged. 

Who do you think should be a guest speaker at your 5-year-old’s class? A doctor? A policeman? An ambulance driver? A firefighter? An author? A company manager?

How about a drag queen? Surely a man with makeup, high heels and women’s clothes who looks like he (she?) just walked out of a nightclub sets a brilliant example for others to follow. It’s so progressive!

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Sarcasm aside, that’s exactly what happened at the Brooklyn Public Library in Park Slope,  New York City when kids were invited to ‘Story Hour’ delivered by a lipstick-wearing guy. Now there are plans to expand this model across the UK, as a new drive has been set up to get drag queens into British primary schools to read stories to kids. Apparently, this is all in aid of LGBT(QLMNOP……) awareness.

With questions such as “Who wants to be a drag queen when they grow up” (to which a number of small children raised their hands), and songs such as “The hips on the drag queen go ‘swish’, ‘swish’, ‘swish’, all day long”, one can’t help but wonder if the world has gone a little mad. Was this drag queen event intended to inform the children about one minority lifestyle choice, or was it intended to promote and advertise the lifestyle of a drag queen?

This also got me wondering: should kids as young as three really be exposed to this kind of activity/event/propaganda (I’m not sure what to call it. Watch the video from the Associated Press and judge for yourself).  Shouldn’t young kids be focussing on learning their times’ tables, language acquisition, playing with toys, playing with their friends, developing ICT skills, developing social and interpersonal skills and acquiring subject-specific content?

The ‘victimhood narrative’

Dr Joana Williams, a lecturer in higher education at Kent University, is one of a number of academics who has spoken out against the kind of gender-biased and gender-confusing influences that seem to be permeating our schools. 

Dr Williams argues that schools, universities and feminist campaigners, which should be promoting women’s rights, are now doing more damage than good. 

In her new book, titled Women vs Feminism: Why We All Need Liberating from the Gender Wars’, Dr Williams argues that “fashionable” modern feminism involves telling young women that misogyny and sexual harassment are commonplace. She claims that teaching young girls that there are insurmountable barriers in life caused by the widespread ‘toxic masculinity’ of men causes a ‘give up’ attitude to be embedded which stops girls from persevering in life. Additionally, as if in a confirmation of the Orwellian ‘newspeak’ predicted in the epic novel, ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’, Dr Williams states:

“So if someone pays you a compliment [you are told] that is outrageous. You are told it is not a joke, it is a sexual attack, it is “everyday sexism” or  a micro-aggression.”

One has to wonder how this ideology affects boys and young men, and their sense of confidence in relationships. Do young men feel empowered to approach a girl and ask for a date these days, or are they afraid that they’ll be labelled a ‘misogynist’? Only time will tell what the long-term effects will be.

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The War Against Boys

Christina Hoff Sommers, author of ‘The War Against Boys, explains how boys are getting a raw deal and how good intervention programmes can have a dramatic and positive effect on the attainment of boys in school. She argues that boys are behind girls when it comes to performance in exams, and she offers some compelling reasons why it’s high time to start addressing this problem. If you’re looking for a very interesting and informative watch, then this video is for you!:

Gender Identity vs. Sexuality

One issue that many in the ‘gender fluid’ community cannot answer fully is this – how do you inform small children about drag queens, lesbians, transgenders and all of the other sub-categories without touching on the subject of sex and relationships? Does a drag queen want to have an intimate relationship with a woman, a man, a transvestite or what? Discussions and ‘story hours’ featuring LGBT issues can’t help but involve the topic of sexuality – the two are intertwined.

Should small children ever be taught about about sex? Shouldn’t the gender binary: a biological male and a female in a relationship together, be equally taught and discussed in schools? After all, that is the reproductive unit that conforms with nature’s rules. Shouldn’t gender-identity education be taught alongside sex-education, when boys and girls are going through adolescence and are better able to process the information being presented to them? Once again, is it really necessary for small children to learn about drag queens and so-called ‘gender non-conformists”. Can small children really understand and process these concepts?

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With sperm counts falling sharply around the world for the past three to four decades, isn’t it in the interest of human survival to value and cherish the traditional family unit above all others?

Some high profile individuals have vehemently spoken out against the contemporary influences that some would say are permeating school communities around the world. Take Fred Nile, New South Wales MP and conservative morals campaigner, who stated: My observation is that teenagers are going through sexual development and [it] can be quite dangerous, I think, to promote homosexuality in schools to children,”

Fred goes a step further than me: warning about the dangers of pervasive homosexuality promotion with teenagers. Once again, the difference between ‘promoting’ and ‘informing’ is a crucial consideration here.

Who wears the trousers?

In an apparent act of typical teenage defiance, a group of boys at Isca Academy in Exeter, England, decided to wear skirts to school as they were banned from wearing shorts. As the mid-July temperatures soared higher than they had since 1976, boys at Isca were noticeably annoyed that their female counterparts could wear cool skirts.

When they protested that the girls were allowed bare legs, the school, probably in the tone of sarcasm, said the boys could wear skirts too if they chose. So on Wednesday 21st June, a handful brushed off the embarrassment and did so. The extent of the rebellion increased on Thursday when at least 30 boys wore skirts.

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The media frenzy was soon picked up by major UK and global publications, including the London Guardian, the Independentthe Telegraph and even ABC news in Australia.

Why the widespread coverage of this story? I guess it is an interesting story of masculine (?) defiance in the face of ‘tyranny’, but why the global attention? Was this really such a high-profile story? Was this an unmissable opportunity for the ‘progressives’ to jump on the gender-identity bandwagon to further confuse people and promote a particular agenda? Perhaps this was just too juicy a story to miss, and news outlets knew that people would be interested. Great for sales?

The War on Fatherhood

Taking this further, the war on masculinity doesn’t end with male identity in schools.

Fathers do one of the hardest jobs in the world. My dad was a role model in every way, often going the extra mile to make sure I was fed, clothed and safe. That wasn’t always easy for my family.

Nowadays, in an apparent act of psychological warfare, the role of the father is often reduced to the image of the beer-guzzling Homer Simpson layabout-type. Take Jezebel magazine, for example, which shows no apparent bias with this comment:

Father’s Day means a lot of things for a lot of different people. Maybe you were lucky enough to score a great dad, the kind that made you pancakes on weekends, coached your soccer team and sang off-key to Bob Seger on long car trips—but always, unmistakably loved you.

And maybe Father’s Day means something totally different to you. Maybe your father passed away, maybe he was abusive, maybe he was never there to begin with. Maybe he was this douche (man-degrading video follows):

For the latter group, Father’s Day is often a painful reminder of what others have but you don’t, and those stories deserve to be told, too.

So what does Father’s Day mean to you? Share your stories—the good, the bad and the ugly—in the comments below.

A balanced invitation? I tend to disagree. Lauren Southern, a rare voice of reason in our confusing world of gender-skewing propaganda, summarises the war on fathers brilliantly in this short video (WELL WORTH A WATCH):

 Conclusion
  • Gender identity classes should be taught in schools. We should teach our young people to be tolerant and accepting of gender-fluid individuals. However, does the promotion of minority gender identities (e.g. transgenders) above the traditional gender binary serve any purpose except to confuse young people further?
  • I think it’s unnecessary for three-year-old kids to learn about the gender identity issues of minorities, but it is appropriate for gender identity classes to be given to older kids who are better able to process the information and make more informed decisions about their lives.
  • Now, more than ever, young boys and girls need positive male role models in their lives. Not chauvinists and misogynists, but hard-working, principled and decent individuals who undoubtedly identify themselves as ‘men’.
  • Any education on gender identity presented in schools should be thoroughly regulated and designed with a proper curriculum focus and should aim to inform about gender-identity. Such a programme should never aim to promote any gender-identity minority.
  • More needs to be done to determine the appropriate age at which gender-identity education should begin. Perhaps it is best delivered to adolescent teens when they already know the scientific basis of sex and the indisputable role that the ‘gender-binary’ plays in the propagation and survival of the human species.
  • Fathers should be respected just as much as mothers, and the important role that fathers play in the traditional family unit should be taught through a school’s PSHE or social studies program
  • Alongside sex-education, health education is vital so that the issue of falling male sperm counts can be addressed. The role that WiFi, cellular devices, food additives and pollutants in the air have on sperm count and general health, though not properly understood, should be presented through project work as an exploration for all high-school students to work on. A number of factors are undoubtedly leading to plummeting sperm counts globally, and the survival of the human race is dependent upon fixing this problem and raising awareness of possible contributing factors.

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The Exam Period is Here: How Will You Use Your Gained Time?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

So the Easter vacation is almost over. Here in Thailand the local people celebrate Songkran – A Thai traditional holiday which is focussed on spending time with family and relatives.

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Having brought my Year 11 and 13 students to the end of their courses, I’m left a little deflated. Like a sprinter who’s just finished the 400 metres I’m left thinking: ‘What’s next?’

With UKEdChat
“An AMAZING Book!”

Our final year students will hopefully have been revising like crazy this holiday: they need too. These exams will determine the next stage in their lives.

Use of gained time

Here are some things to bear in mind and consider for those of us who will find our timetables a little lighter in Term 3:

  • Invigilation: You’ll probably be asked to invigilate some exams if you’ve lost some of your timetabled classes. We must make sure that we are fully aware of our roles and responsibilities as invigilators (check again with your examination’s officer – don’t just assume that it’ll be the same as last time). We must be prompt and fully responsible during the invigilation process – the integrity of the exams is paramount and a snap visit from an exam-board representative can happen at any time. 
  • Marking: Gained time can be used to catch up with marking – especially for classwork and homework from students lower down the school
  • Feedback and mentoring: This is a great time to have one-to-one discussions with Year 1 IGCSE/GCSE students and ‘AS’ – Level/IBDP/SAT students. Make sure they know that you acknowledge and recognise their efforts and that you’re monitoring their progress. Re-evaluate targets or set new ones if these students don’t have targets already. 

Q & A

  • Tutoring: A great way to help students out and earn some some valuable cash at the same time. Tutors will be in high demand now that the exam season has started. Prepare resources in advance if you can and aim to deliver excellence every time – you’ll be surprised at how quickly your reputation will grow. Websites like Craigslist and Learn Pick are great places to advertise your services to potential students. 
  • Curriculum Mapping and Preparation for next year: Yes, get those long-term plans, worksheets, presentations, games and wonderful resources ready now. We all want to have a summer vacation (notice the word vacation there). Check out ukedchat.com for great ideas and resources.
  • Pedagogy: Brush up on your teaching skills. Attend a class or seminar. Buy a good book and study it (e.g. The Quick Guide to Classroom Management, Mark, Plan, Teach and The Ultimate Guide to Differentiation)
  • Offer an extra E.C.A.: You’ll be engaging new students who you may teach in mainstream classes soon, and you’ll be seen as a proactive team-player. What could be better than that?

Do you have any further suggestions? Please feel free to comment by using the box below. 

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