My Golden Rule of Teaching!

Today, this tweet popped up on my timeline -
It really got me thinking about teachers and the approach they take to the topics they teach in class. On all my INSET and training, I try to inspire teachers to find their purpose for using technology. Looking at the why, when and how to use technology to transform learning in the classroom. No matter how much training a teacher receives, unless they truly believe in the purpose of technology it will never have any impact. This was a point raised in @ICTEvangelist's latest blog post. My main purpose is always to try and enhance learning and inspire children with their reading, writing and arithmetic. I use technology when it enhances learning because I see first hand how it enhances my learning as a teacher.

I often discuss my Nana on my training as the perfect example. Up to a couple of years ago, she had never really embraced technology: she had a mobile but never used it. Last Christmas she was given an iPad. Once she was shown that through the iPad she could use facebook and therefore, keep in touch with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren living in Gibraltar, she found her purpose. So without any real help or guidance she self-taught herself how to use the technology. I often say if my 82 year old Nan can do this, every teacher can also learn to use the technology, they just need to find their purpose. Once my Nan was confident, she was quickly involved in our World War 2 topic as we used facetime and interviewed her and my Grandad as they were both evacuated in the war. You can read more about this here. 

This isn't an issue that it strictly linked to technology. We all know the best teachers don't need to use any technology to have a class of children hanging onto their every word. Some of the best teachers will use tech with purpose to enhance learning but all too often teachers can find themselves teaching topics that they have no interest or passion for.

There is a fantastic Ted talk by Andrew Stanton, a director at Pixar, all about the rules of Storytelling. This talk heavily influences the conference I lead with John Murray!
(Please be aware there is some inappropriate language at the beginning)

In the video he states the following Golden Rule of Storytelling -

This has now become my Golden Rule of Teaching - MAKE THEM CARE!

This is where I feel the government get it wrong with things like SPAG. No child will ever care about SPAG on its own or in a test. When children are truly engaged in their writing, that's when they will want to use SPAG correcttly because that is when it matters and they care!

I try as much as possible, especially with writing, to be as heavily led by the children as possible. I find that children tend to write and write well when they are interested in the topic. I was a child once and was exactly the same as my stepson. He isn't a bad writer but only tends to write well when he is interested in the topic. That is why I have developed the Camouflage Learning approach in class. I know it seems a long time until Christmas, but all my own children want to do is read stories about Christmas. Why not then have the class read as 'A Christmas Carol' and start this from next week? If it is something the children are interested in and excited about, surely they will be more willing to write about it!

Everything I write as an adult is based on what I am interested in and care about. I have facebook and what's app groups with my mates where we discuss football, upcoming films and other things we like. My wife is the same with her friends, however the topics are very different. When would we, as adults, ever write about something we don't care about?

What we sometimes fail to realise is just how much our students care and look up to us as teachers and therefore, can be influenced and interested in something we show a passion for. How often, as a teacher, do you use your interests as a focus in class? What stories and books had you gripped when you were young? Do you use these? It may seem silly but I find lots of teachers don't put enough of their personality into the classroom.

Having worked in and with a number of big schools (2+ form entry,) a lot tend to do joint planning - one does English, the other does maths. I can understand and see the logic with this. With certain subjects I think this can work well as there isn't as much freedom with the curriculum (maths and science for example,) however, with English and if your school has a topic approach, this can sometimes be tricky and lead to a disengaged teacher and a disengaged class.

If one teacher picks the English focus, they will probably do that based on their own personal interest. The parallel teacher may have no interest in that focus at all and therefore will probably not teach it with any real belief, passion or enthusiasm. I think teachers should plan the objectives that need covering together, however, look at different ways to apply those objectives in topics the teachers are themselves engaged with. This starts at the top too, SLT trusting the staff to run with topics the teachers are enthused with.

It works! You only have to look at the work someone like Mat Sullivan gets from his class when he uses comics as a stimulus. Why? Because he loves comics! With every lesson he teaches his enthusiasm and passion for comics becomes contagious with the children. Read his blog for examples of this. I once worked with a teacher who just loved Blue Whales. He would use it as a stimulus in class and his love just carried through and the children would always create amazing pieces of writing!

When I think back to the Blackfish project we did in class as an example, when I initially discussed the film the children could sense how passionatly I felt about the issue and this got them hooked and wanting to know more!

Just last week, I was talking to a Year 3 class about Back to the Future and telling them how much I loved the film! Most went home and watched it! This led to use producing some fantastic topic front covers for our Ancient Egypt topic we will be starting next half term.

Every teacher will have strengths in different areas, some will be great with PE; others may be very creative with art. I am not saying we then don't teach the subjects we're not particularly passionate about. What I am saying is, wherever possible, look at ways in which you can use your interests and passions to inspire the children in your class. I can't guarantee every child will be engaged, but the chances are you will have more success if they can feed off your enthusiasm. So during this half term, look at what your topics are in English and consider whether this is something you are engaged with, if not, find something you are, use that instead and hopefully the children will follow suit!

Thanks for reading!

If you feel your staff would benefit from working with Mr P and embedding this approach, please visit this link. 


  1. HONORED. Absolutely honored. Thank you for including me. My week is made knowing that my tweet helped you reflect. How inspiring?


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