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”.

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

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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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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What is an ‘Authentic’ Teacher?

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

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

It was lunchtime but I didn’t mind. Neither did my German teacher.

I ran upstairs and entered her room. She was free – success! I pulled out my listening exam script: a set of learned responses to verbal questions that could come up in my GCSE exam.

With UKEdChatI’m sure she was hungry and I’m sure she wanted lunch. I didn’t think about that when I was 16 years old. I probably should have. 

She sat with me and helped me with my responses. Her dedication lunchtime after lunchtime was a major factor in the grade ‘A’ I achieved in the final exams. She went on to praise me publicly for my efforts and nominate me for a prestigious school award, which I won.

What makes some teachers go beyond the call of duty?

Not every teacher was like my German teacher, and understandably so. As teachers we work long hours and often give up parts of our weekends and school holidays for planning, marking and perfecting our work.

If I could write one phrase to describe my German teacher it would be this: She really cared.

Art class

That’s not to say that my other teachers didn’t care – they did. But my German teacher really cared.

The desire and drive within her to help one of her students had a profound effect on me – so much so that it acts as a huge reminder to me of the duty of care I have to my students today: almost two decades later. 

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How does ‘authenticity’ manifest itself?

I’ve been fortunate to receive wholehearted care from a number of great teachers in my life. I think their authenticity can be summed up in these main ways:

  • They don’t just teach their subject: My best teachers tried to help me out with problems I was having in life, not just in my studies. When I broke up with my girlfriend, my Biology teacher gave me some great advice and told me not to let it bother me. “It’s her loss”, he said. When I came into school looking exhausted because I’d had no sleep the night before, a number of teachers expressed concern for me and asked how I was and recommended that I get some sleep. When I was pelted with snowballs and came into my Head of Year’s office crying, he put his hands on my ears to warm them up and helped me to calm down.  
  • They take their duty as ‘role models’ seriously: “There’s no such thing as an off-duty teacher” – 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.
  • They remember you after you leave: At high school reunions and when bumping into each other in the street, authentic teachers and former students talk with each other like it was yesterday. “How are you getting along, Richard”. “I’m doing fine”, I said. “I always knew you would be a success, you were always a very dedicated student”, my old physics teacher responded in 2006. That felt great. It was a reminder of who I was at my core, and a motivator to keep me on track for the future. 
  • They leave no student behind: I was in Year 10 when me and my classmates took a ‘formulae of ions’ test in Chemistry. About half of the class, including me, failed the test. To this day I still don’t know why that happened, but my Chemistry teacher just couldn’t let it go. She pulled aside all of us as a group, had a talk with us and made us resit the test the following week. On the second attempt, we all got above 80% (and it was an equally difficult test). Afterwards she said “Can you now see that the concept was really simple”. We all agreed. 
  • They give up some of their free time: I already know that this is not going to be a popular one with some of my readers, but it is true. Authentic teachers care so much about their students that they are happy to run classes or tutoring after school or at break and lunch times to help students out. They know that this dedication will pay dividends in terms of the rapport they are building and the results the students will get in the final exams. These payoffs are more valuable to them than their free time, which is very admirable. 

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What are the effects of ‘authenticity’?

Authentic teachers literally change their students’ lives. They realise that their influence doesn’t just last a day, or an academic year. They know that they are part of a mission to mold their learners into happy, responsible, good adults of the future. 

There’s a saying that was used in a Teacher recruitment campaign in the UK in the early 2000s – No One Forgets a Good Teacher.

I would say that no one forgets an authentic teacher, because only authentic teachers can be good teachers. 

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11 Female Teachers Who Changed the World: International Women’s Day 2018

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

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati (The best illustrator in the world!)

Women perform a large number of essential and unique roles in society.

That fact is undeniable.

lab girls

From authors and actresses to CEOs and engineers: Women prove time and time again that they can perform any job just as efficiently and professionally as any man can.

As a high school Science and Chemistry Teacher I am truly honored to work with a team of incredibly dedicated female colleagues. Some of the best teachers in the whole world are women, and here’s why:

  • They are caring and nurturing: essential characteristics when teaching and helping children and young adults
  • They are efficient and incredibly organised
  • They are passionate
  • They are truly dedicated to the profession
  • They are just great teachers, period!

All teachers, male or female, are heroes and heroins: we inspire the next generation with our tireless efforts to educate, sustain, help and care for our learners.

This blog post celebrates the lives and works of ten truly exceptional female teachers who continue to inspire and influence educational thought, methodologies and practice in classrooms and universities all over the world. Their work not only benefits others but shapes and molds traditional pedagogy so that it continually evolves and improves as the years go by.

With any ‘11 Best’ list we have to very selective – not everyone can be included! If you feel that another female teacher is worthy of mention then please do comment using the box at the bottom of the page.

All but one these amazing women has a twitter handle. If you click on the twitter image it’ll take you to that person’s twitter page.

Why not send a nice message to your favourite out of these 11 women? In celebration of International Women’s Day 2018, a nice message on Twitter to thank one or more of these women for their amazing work will go a long way and will probably bring a smile to their faces.

If you’re reading this on a mobile device then it might be best to switch to ‘reader view’ now, as the many images below may make the layout a bit messy. 

So now let’s begin our celebration of women in education!

Sue Cowley

Sue Cowley Amazon Image

I was first introduced to Sue Cowley in 2008 when I was a struggling NQT. I walked into my local bookstore in Chester and a book title instantly attracted my attention: ‘Getting the Buggers to Behave’.

I read that book from cover to cover 3 times in 7 days: I found it completely compelling and totally ‘unputdownable’. The advice in the book: such as the dynamics of giving students a second chance to redeem themselves by not punishing immediately, really made sense to me. I just hadn’t thought about behavior management in this way before! It was a truly life-changing experience!

Sue Cowley Behave

I like books that are practical and entertaining and Sue’s book was definitely that. If you’re struggling with behavior management then you MUST get this book! It could save your career (and your sanity)!

12 years after I read ‘Getting the Buggers to Behave’ and we find that Sue has build up an impressive international reputation as an educational influencer, teacher-trainer, speaker and bestselling author of twenty books! Sue was even recently called to appear as an Expert Witness on behavior in schools for the Education Select Committee made up of MPs from the UK Parliament.

I think it’s right to say that Sue’s advice works!

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Her latest book:The Ultimate Guide to Differentiation’ (which is brand new, being published literally three days ago on March 8th!) seems set to rocket to the bestselling charts just like the legendary ‘Getting the Buggers to Behave’ did. Check it out on Amazon by clicking on the image below.

Sue Cowley Differentiation

Starr Sackstein

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Starr Sackstein is one of those all-time inspirational grassroots teachers who discovered the right way to do things and the right way to tell the world about it!

Her teaching career started just over 16 years ago in Far Rockaway High School, where she was keen to have an impact and make a difference in the lives of so many. She quickly mastered rapport-building with her students and recognized, on a deep level, the most important part of teaching: relationships. To this day, Sackstein continues to elevate and develop her students by putting them at the center of their learning.

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Sackstein has authored a large number of truly uplifting, enriching and thought-provoking works including my personal favorite: Peer Feedback in the Classroom’. I’ve read this book a whopping three times and I can honestly say that it is perfect for understanding what meaningful feedback looks like (and it’s not about percentages and numbers!).

Peer Feedback

Most recently, Sackstein was named as an ASCD Emerging Leader and had the opportunity to give a TEDxTalk about throwing out grades called A Recovering Perfectionist’s Journey To Give Up Grades.

Education Write Now

Starr effectively balances her career of writing and teaching with being the mum to her 12 year old son: Logan. If ‘inspirational’ and ‘life-changing’ were adjectives that could be measured in numbers (contrary to Sackstein’s advice), then she would definitely score 100%. 

Check out her latest emotive and truly game-changing advice in the legendary book ‘Education Write Now’ which was published in January (available on Amazon).

Angela Watson

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As an internationally recognized educational blogger, Angela brings a wealth of ideas and life-changing solutions to the teaching profession. She started blogging in 2003 with her trailblazing and groundbreaking website for educators everywhere: Ms. Powell’s Management Ideas for TeachersAs a place to share tips and techniques on behavior management, organisation and teaching methodologies, the site expanded and evolved into the world-famous The Cornerstone for Teachers in 2008. 

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I was personally very humbled, lucky and grateful to be invited to write a guest blog post which was featured on The Cornerstone for Teachers here: 4 Secrets to Building Rapport with Students 

Homepage The Cornerstone for Teachers

Since the launch of The Cornerstone for Teachers, Angela has been heavily involved in improving the work-life balance and effectiveness of teachers everywhere. Her writing has featured in thousands of magazine articles, newsletters and internet resources and her ideas are utilized extensively in teacher training and preparation courses across America. 

In addition to all of this, Angela founded Due Season Press and Educational Services, through which she has created printable curriculum resourcesonline courses4 booksthe Truth for Teachers podcastand the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club (which is absolutely brilliant).

The world ‘inspirational’ doesn’t go far enough to describe Angela’s work and influence in the field of education. Her teachings inform and benefit teachers all over the world and on International Women’s Day she rightly stands out as a role-model for educators everywhere.

Jennifer Chang-Wathall

Jennifer Wathall LinkedIn

I love mathematics. I love manipulating equations and applying mathematics to problems in Biology and Chemistry. Jennifer Chang-Wathall loves mathematics too: so much so that she developed a revolutionary new way of teaching it!

As a Lecturer at the prestigious University of Hong Kong, Jennifer stands out as woman who’s on a mission to improve how we teach mathematics forever. 

Published in 2016, her pioneering book: Concept-Based Mathematics, achieves what few subject texts can: it connects the dots!

Jennifer

As a former mathematics teacher myself I understand how easy it is to become topic-focused and super-concerned about getting my students to complete problem after problem until they finally ‘get it’. Lower down the school this approach can work to a limited extent, but for advanced students (such as IBDP learners) it’s important to relate mathematics to the ‘big picture’.

Concept Based Mathematics

With Jennifer’s Concept-Based approach, students see how calculus can be applied to radioactive decay or how arithmetic and geometric progressions can be used to model the spread of disease. These cross-curricular and cross topic links within mathematics define a modern approach that encourages real deep-learning, exploration and thorough understanding.

It looks like Jennifer has found a good way to get students to truly love mathematics again! 

Jennifer Wathall Website

In her day-to-day job of changing the world with her transformative mathematics pedagogy, Jennifer runs International Baccalaureate workshops and serves as a field representative for the IB.  She also works as a consultant helping maths departments and schools transition to concept-based curricula and instruction. Her website can be found at www.jenniferwathall.com 

Hanan Al Hroub

Hanan Al Hroub

Born in a Palestinian refugee camp, Hanan Al Hroub is an inspiration to so many. Changing lives one child at a time through her ‘No to Violence‘ message, Hanan Al Hroub uses a unique play she created to get kids to follow a peaceful path of life.

Having suffered from violence herself and having her own children traumatized by a shooting incident on their way home from primary school, Hanan decided to tackle the problem of youth violence head-on. 

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By developing trusting relationships with her students and emphasizing the importance of literacy, Hanan’s approach has led to a decline in violent behavior in school and has inspired colleagues to adopt similar methods.She describes how the violence that children experience on the streets gets brought into the classroom. However, after just a few months of following her programme, students show a dramatic improvement in their behavior towards each other.

Hanan was formally recognized for her work when she was crowned Winner of the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Award in 2016. She has also written a game-changing book: We Play and Learn, which continues to inspire and inform Palestinian teaching to this day. 

Global Teacher Prize Winner

Adjima Thaitrong

Adjima

Adjima (nickname: Mod) has such a unique style of communication that she has earned herself the reputation of being one of the most famous Thai Language teachers in the world.

Her humorous and lively style appeals to expatriate, tourist and online learners alike. Her excellent website at http://learnthaiwithmod.com/ contains lots of excellent articles and great Thai language learning videos that make learning this beautiful language fun and easy.

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I’ve personally been an online student of hers for two years. Her videos and resources make learning Thai a really enjoyable experience. She has also has a unique way of ‘raising the bar’ each time without making the learner realise. Students of hers regularly comment that even though her material gets harder as you go along, it doesn’t feel that way because of the free and casual style of her teaching. 

That’s a unique skill that few teachers master.

Learn Thai with Mod

With a Facebook following of almost 28.000 people, Mod provides every netizen with ample and comprehensive access to Thai language learning. Doing away with traditional ‘rote’ earning, Mod’s playful style appeals to a new generation of multi-linguists.

What do I take from Mod on a daily basis? That’s easy – smile, don’t be too serious and have energy: your students will learn better because of it!

Annie Brock

Annie Brock Amazon Image

Annie Brock is a K-12 innovation specialist and the author of three great books: Introduction to Google ClassroomThe Growth Mindset Coach, and The Growth Mindset Playbook.

Annie’s pedagogical ideas have been well-received in the teaching profession, with her books receiving wide-acclaim for their excellent practicality and user-friendly format. The Growth Mindset Coach, for example, outlines a recurring month by month guide to actually developing the growth mindset with students in the classroom.

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I personally liked Annie’s book (which was co-authored by Heather Hundley – another inspirational teacher) for it’s ‘mantras’ that create a theme for each month. This makes the book really enjoyable and I can personally vouch for the fact that the techniques work!

The Growth Mindset

Her ‘not yet’ mantra for April, for example, really helped me to create formative and summative assessments that encourage students to go further and deeper with their learning, rather than accepting a point score and moving on. 

Annie lives in Holton, Kansas, with her husband, Jared, and their two children.

Heather Hundley

Heather Hundley

Heather Hundley is a Director of Curriculum and an Assistant Elementary Principal in Kansas. She co-authored of two pioneering and influential books with Annie Brock: The Growth Mindset Coach and The Growth Mindset Playbook.

Both books are absolutely brilliant and I would recommend them both. Additionally, The Growth Mindset Playbook is particularly good for improving communication with students and includes many great examples of engaging and effective lesson plans. 

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Bottom-line: Heather and Annie write sense! Read their books – they’ll change the way you see yourself and your students! 

Heather is also very active on Twitter, where she offers lots of advice and tips on how encourage a growth mindset with students, colleagues and even parents!

Growth Mindset Playbook

Now that’s useful!

Heather lives in Holton, Kansas with her husband and their three children.

Roberta Bondar

Roberta Bondar

Roberta Bondar is Canada’s first female astronaut and the first ever neurologist to go into space. After spending more than a decade as NASA’s head of space medicine, Roberta became a consultant and speaker in the scientific, business and medical communities.

Roberta’s work has touched so many lives and she has been recognised by many honours and awards including the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, the NASA Space Medal, over 22 honorary degrees and induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

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Respected for her expertise and clear teaching style, Roberta has been a star guest on television and radio networks throughout the United States and Canada. She featured in the 1994 movie Destiny in Space, and has also co-presented the Discovery Channel’s coverage of space shuttle launches.

On the Shuttle

Roberta co-authored the legendary 1993 book (which is now a collector’s item): On the Shuttle. This book provides a mind-blowing look at life on the world’s first International Microgravity Laboratory and is great for teaching kids about life in Space.

Elizabeth E. Bailey

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Bailey grew up in New York City, where she graduated from the Chapin School in 1956. She received her bachelor’s degree from the Radcliffe College, a master’s degree from Stevens Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. from Princeton University, where she was the first woman ever to receive a doctoral degree in economics. Bailey was the first woman appointed as a department head at Bell Laboratories (she led the economic research section there). Elizabeth worked in technical programming and economic research at Bell Laboratories from 1960 to 1977.

Bailey joined The Wharton School in July 1991, having served from July 1990 to June 1991 as a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, andas a visiting scholar at the Yale School of Organization and Management. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997. 

She is still incredibly busy and active despite her any years of outstanding contribution and service. She serves on the Board of Directors of TIAA-CREF, Altria, and CSX Corporation and is a trustee of The Brookings Institution and a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Elizabeth has also been the Vice Chairmen of Bancroft NeuroHealth since 1989.

Elizabeth’s best-known work is her book: Economic Theory of Regulatory ConstraintPublished in 1972, this iconic book is a collectors item and is still used as a staple reference for economics undergraduates all over the world.

Economic Theory of Regulatory Constraint

Elizabeth’s achievements and contributions to the fields of economics and organizational management are globally significant and nothing short of legendary.

Elizabeth Wharton

Ann Cotton OBE

Ann_Cotton_400x400

No list about about amazing and inspirational women would be complete without a girl from my home country: Wales.

Cardiff-born Ann Cotton gave up her regular teaching job and founded the Campaign for Female Education, also known as CAMFED, in 1993.CAMFED is an organisation that educates young women in rural Africa. Her work has supported African girls through school and helped to improve their living standards: lifting them out of poverty.

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By giving the opportunity of education to girls in poor African communities she has changed their lives forever.

Ann Cotton in Africa

That’s what heroins do, and Ann Cotton is definitely a heroin.

The model that she follows is to create sustainability in part through CAMA: a 25,000-member pan-African network of CAMFED graduates who are now rural businesswomen, and have become role models for their communities through the economic independence they have achieved for themselves. Almost 5,000 of these graduates have become teachers: further propagating the message of hope for so many.

Ann was awarded the Wise prize at an education summit in Qatar in 2014 and was recognised by the OECD for best practice in development innovation. She was also honoured with an Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) in 2006 in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

In Recognition

As a small token of gratitude from teachers everywhere, all of these inspirational women have been sent a copy of my book: The Quick Guide to Classroom Managementalong with a box of chocolates. May teachers everywhere be touched and inspired by the works of these amazing women for many more years to come.

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World Book Day: Every Teacher is an English Teacher

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

Related article –  Vocabulary Values: Helping Students to Learn Key Words

He waddled his way through the corridor like a happy duckling. Amid the giggles and cries of small children he looked liked a giant orange with tentacles as he waded through the masses on his way to the library. Mr Jones was dressed as ‘Mr Tickle’ from the ‘Mr Men’ series of books. 

The outfit must have taken an astronomical amount of time to create. With orange fur and controllable arms it was clear who was going to win the ‘Best Dressed Teacher’ competition. 

I, on the other hand, tend to be a little too lazy with my outfit on World Book Day. This year was no exception. Can you guess who I am?:

James Bond World Book Day

If you said ‘James Bond’ then well done: you’re right! It’s a quick (and a little too lazy) conversion for me: change my tie to a bow, add a dinner shirt and a white pocket square and I’m ready to serve on Her Majesty’s Secret Service!

“Who have you come as?” one of my friends says to me as I walk into the staff room on Friday (we had our World Book Day a day later as Thursday is a religious holiday here in Thailand). “I’m James Bond” I say (rather upset that I wasn’t instantly recognizable). “Is that even a book” he says. “It’s a whole series of books, written by Ian Fleming”

“Wow. I had no idea”

Costume Capers

World Book Day is great for getting people to ask good questions. Often, the characters we dress up as are in fact movie stars which we never knew existed in books. This can really get kids inspired to read more as they gradually realize that good books are often the basis for their favorite movies or TV shows. Good examples include:

  • Harry Potter – The all-time legendary series of fantasy books written by J.K. Rowling. These books have formed the basis for a whopping 8 different movies!
  • The Hunger Games – These action packed dystopian novels featuring stoic and passionate heroin: Katniss Everdeen, have been transformed into five excellent films. 
  • Twilight – Popular with teenagers and young adults: these fantasy/romance novels were brilliantly conceived and written by legendary author Stephenie Meyer

What message does all of this send to kids when they are fully aware of the facts? That’s simple: Books are cool! Books are inspirational. Books change lives. Read books!

With UKEdChat
“An AMAZING book!”

Command Terms

It’s a shame that World Book Day is only once per year. In reality, every day should be a World Book Day as we should encourage our kids to read books and enjoy learning English on a daily basis. 

As a teacher at an International School in Bangkok, I have the unique privilege and pleasure of working with classes where, in many cases, more than 90% of the students are working with English as an additional/second language. One of my unique missions every day is to help my students to see why English is a beautiful language. To help them notice patterns and sounds. To ensure that they use the correct language in their answers to exam-style questions.

Examination language

Try putting up a ‘command-terms’ display in your classroom (like the one below):

Command Terms Blooms Display.JPG
A command terms hierarchy display that follows Bloom’s Taxonomy

I use this display on a daily basis to teach my students how to phrase their answers. I like to turn the command terms into kid-friendly language when going through exam-style and past-paper questions. For instance:

  • Describe: Tell me ‘what’
  • Explain: Tell me ‘why and how’
  • Deduce: Work out the answer and show every step in your work

Eventually, the students can build up a long list of command terms in their Learning Journals or notebooks, coupled with their ‘kid-friendly’ descriptions. The display also follows Bloom’s Taxonomy, with command terms demanding more sophistication in written responses as you go up the pyramid.

The result: Students learn good English vocabulary and score better on exams. What could be better than that! 

Command terms are so important, in fact, that many textbooks are now emphasizing them as students work through the chapters. Take this extract from a book my students were using in one of our Science tutoring sessions this week:

Command Terms Hw
Command terms emboldened in a Science textbook

As I was helping these students, I found that explaining the command term first, before tackling the question, really helped in getting a suitable answer. The two girls who I was tutoring would say “Ah, I get it now” when the command term was made clear.

Do you think that students will use these command terms in their daily and future lives? Absolutely! Command terms come up in a range of contexts when operating through the medium of English. For example: “How can we justify this business decision?”, “On the basis of the previous two-years sales, can you predict likely sales for the first quarter of this year?”, “How can we determine who is the best candidate for this role?”, and on we could go ad infinitum.

Isn’t this what language-learning is all about? Getting students to learn key words, then to enjoy using those words and then to apply them to a range of contexts?

sit n talk

In my honest opinion, command terms offer the ultimate key in cross-curricular learning and should be explored by curriculum leaders as a way to really ‘gel’ their subjects together. The result of this: deep learning and an added sense of importance attached to each subject as students see how they link together. 

Learning Journals

I have a system set up where students in Year 11, 12 and 13 (approx. ages 15 – 18) bring me a journal filled with revision notes, key words, past-paper questions and answers every Monday. It’s such an effective way to boost confidence and performance, but it does require a bit of organisation and leadership from the teacher.

If you have identified students who could use such a journal to focus specifically on learning key words and command terms, then here are the steps to take:

Step 1: Tell the students to get a special notebook. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Just a cheap spiral bound one will do just fine. 

Step 2: The students should divide the first page into three columns:

  • Key word
  • Meaning
  • Pronunciation

For example: Moment, The force applied to a lever multiplied by the distance from the pivot, mo-men-t

For an EAL student you can include a fourth column:

  • Translation

In this column, the student can write the word in his/her native language.

Step 3: The students should write down the key words they learn every week into this journal, along with all of the other information.

Step 4: CRUCIAL! The key words and information must be CHECKED every week. Check the words, the meaning and the pronunciation (you can even get the students to say the words to you – this reinforces their memory of the terminology). 

Explaining

Don’t forget to reward students for good work too: use your school’s points/merits system, write nice comments on their work and even think of special rewards: a ‘star of the week’ for example, where you display the student’s work on the class noticeboard. 

Use voice inflections

Science is great for teaching kids new words. When we, as teachers, genuinely love to pronounce and say key words then our kids will love doing that too.

I have quite a funny little system I use in class. When a key word comes up, I’ll give it a rank:

“Precipitate. Precipitate. Such a beau-ti-ful word. Say “Pre-ci-pi-tate”

Class: Precipitate

“Excellent! Precipitate is number 3 on my ‘Favorite Words in Science’ list”

Student: “What’s number one”

“That’s a secret! One day you’ll find out! A prize to first person to e-mail me my number one Science word when they hear it!”

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Of course, my number one word will come at the end of the academic year when the suspense and excitement has been building up for two terms. 

Use vocabulary jokes

I’ve recently started experimenting with this and it’s working like a treat! It does take some planning and skill though, and is best described through some examples:

Vocabulary Joke 1: ‘Formal Charge’

I recently used this joke with my Year 13 students to reinforce the term ‘Formal Charge’ – a concept in Organic Chemistry. 

“I was walking to the coffee shop yesterday and Mr Davies asked me “Mr Rogers, what is your favorite F.C.? Is it Liverpool F.C.?’ And guess what?”

Class: “What?!!!”

“I said ‘No. My favorite F.C. is ‘Formal Charge'”

Class: (laughing)

I then laugh and say “This is the life of a Chemistry Teacher.  Hashtag #chemistrylife”

Class: (giggles and laughter)

This has long-term effects outside of the classroom too. Effects which fully embed the phrases. For example: when I was actually walking to the coffee shop one of my Year 13 students passed me and I said “What is your favorite F.C.?” and she said “Formal Charge”.

Chapter 5 - drones and hacking

Vocabulary Joke 2: ‘Alkali’

An alkali is the opposite of an acid, having a pH higher than 7 (think of soap, for example). I used this joke recently with my Year 10 students:

“A student of mine in Year 9 asked me: ‘Mr Rogers, do you like my homework?’, and guess what happened!'”

Class: “What?!!” (they know that a joke is coming!)

“I said I more than like your work, I ‘alkalike‘ your homework”

Class: (laughing)

I then laugh and say “This is the life of a Chemistry Teacher. Hashtag #chemistrylife”

Class: (giggles and laughter)

Clean and fun jokes can like this can be very powerful. The kids will say them to their parents and friends, and if you refer to them outside of the classroom (e.g. John, do you like my new notebook? John: I ‘alkalike’ it), then you can really embed these key terms. The result: Kids will love English, will repeat the words you say and will eventually use these key terms frequently in their written responses. 

Other strategies

There are many more strategies you can use to get your learners to enjoy learning the English language. Check out my blog posts on Learning Journals and Vocabulary Values for more tips. 

Conclusion

Our aim must be to get our students to LOVE English – speaking it, reading it, listening to it and writing it. Encourage good language learning by:

  • Taking part fully in English-themed events such as World Book Day
  • Using and embedding command terms
  • Creating a Learning Journals system
  • Pronouncing key words in a funny way and getting students to repeat them out loud (elocution)
  • Making full use of powerful ‘Vocabulary Jokes’
  • Using other strategies, such as vocabulary games, which you can find on my blog posts here and here.

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