Jill Berry’s top blogs of the week 29 June 2015

Reflections from teachers’ book group

By @teachertweaks

Several schools have now set up staffroom educational book discussion groups with fascinating posts detailing their activities and how they benefit teaching and learning across schools. See, for example, @shaun_allison’s and @dan_brinton’s blogs. In this post, @teachertweaks give some practical tips for schools considering establishing such a group.

They include: set a budget and decide at the outset how many, and which books, you will invest in; consider whether the staff will keep the books, or borrow and recirculate them; think how structured or flexible you want commitment to be, and think through exactly how best to disseminate ideas and stimulate reflection and debate.

@teachertweaks share their book selection, and assure us that this can be a dynamic addition to on-going, focused and relevant professional development. “It will set off a buzz!”

Great literature teaches for us

By @atharby

Andy Tharby is a shining example of a passionate English teacher. In this post he begins by quoting Scott Fitzgerald: “That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone”, before going on to suggest that if a text has enough depth, it will resonate with learners. Encouraging understanding, reflection on the themes and through that, interest and engagement, should ensure that those we teach benefit from the great literature that we can share with them.

“The beautiful complexity of the world lies within the best texts. We must trust great literature to do much of the teaching and engaging for us. We are merely the gatekeepers.” Love it.

The under-rated teacher qualities

By @BodilUK

Bodil explores those teacher characteristics “you never seem to see on a lesson observation form”, which “aren’t set as a PRP target” and which rarely feature as the focus of a CPD session. And yet . . .

A calm sense of self assurance (“a reliable pair of hands trumps jazz hands every time”); being unabashedly in love with your subject; wanting to spend time with the pupils, (“Love the quiet kids. Love the beige kids . . .”) and developing the capacity to explain complex things in a way that makes them seem simple – these are, to Bodil, the under-rated teacher qualities that we should celebrate and make sure we value.

A parent’s hope for the future

By @nancygedge

Nancy has been a brilliant addition to the blogging community. She has written for Schools Week and I was delighted when she won Teacher Blogger of the Year, a new category at the TES School Awards.

In this blog she answers the question about her hopes for Sam, her eldest child, who has Down’s syndrome.

I found her response typically forthright, balanced and poignant. “We want the same things for Sam that we want for our other children.”

Having followed her blog for a few years now, I feel I have grown up with Sam, who is now only two years away from leaving school – Nancy’s recent posts have charted his deepening voice and growing teenage angst. Nancy’s hopes for Sam’s future encourage us to reflect on what is most important: confidence, love, kindness, choices and opportunities.

“We hope that he lives his life with the respect of others and dignity for himself.”

Take a bow, Nancy.

Research-based principles all teachers should know

By @dan_brinton

So Dan Brinton gets two mentions in this week’s blogs column – I do hope it won’t go to his head. I really enjoyed this post based on Barak Rosenshine’s 2012 article that detailed ten principles of instruction informed by research, with suggestions for implementing them in the classroom. Dan helpfully summarises the key messages in a clear, practical way. Great stuff.