156 reasons to be a teacher…

With quite a lot of negative press around teaching recently I thought we could do with a reflective piece on the positive nature of the job we love so much via @teachertoolkit

Children:

  1. The number one reason for many adults who are teachers, is working with children.
  2. Watching that ‘eureka’ moment when a child grasps a new concept.
  3. Supporting a child through difficult circumstances …
  4. Knowing that you are making a difference to every child.
  5. That working with children, every day is different.
  6. You can watch children, who are not your own, grow up.
  7. Observing the innocent nature of a child and protecting this as much as possible.
  8. That occasion when a child accidentally calls you ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’ and you both smile about it.
  9. Teaching is so much more than just being in a classroom. Teaching is about developing the ‘whole child’.
  10. In 10 years time, an ex-student will get in touch with you to say ‘how much of a difference you made’.
  11. You get to see friendships between pupils blossom, confidence rocket and intellects expand.
  12. You get to shape, mould and influence in your own unique way.
  13. You can help create critical thinkers and encourage children to be independent and confident.
  14. You can help children develop skills they need for survival.
  15. We can help children to preserve and be well motivated.
  16. We can teach children to think, reason, solve problems and be creative.
  17. We can provide equal opportunities and fight injustice.
  18. We can teach children whose progress is causing concern and turn their life chances around.
  19. We can support children with behavioural difficulties and offer them a secure base to learn from and feel safe.
  20. We can coach and mentor building the self-esteem of every pupil we teach.
  21. We can teach pupils to take personal responsibility for their actions.
  22. Children teach us something new every day.

Subject:

  1. We get to continually deepen our subject skills.
  2. We can be the drivers of subject change across a school.
  3. We get to energise and enthuse pupils and staff with our subject passion.
  4. We are constantly focused on progress and rewarding progress through our subject.
  5. We can fuel learning because we can present our subject in ways that interests and motivates pupils.
  6. We get to help pupils discover their potential in your subject-area.
  7. We get to indulge your subject passion and promote its value and worth throughout each term.
  8. We can inspire wonder and awe for our subject.
  9. We can take our subject out into the community and raise its profile.
  10. We can use our subject as a gateway into new experiences and interests.

Class/Schools:

  1. We can set the pace of a class, e.g. slow and methodical, fast and furious.
  2. We can structure learning experiences by selecting groupings: whole class, small groups, independent.
  3. You have a captive audience every day who you can challenge…and they can challenge you.
  4. You can change direction at any moment if something isn’t working.
  5. You can teach indoors and outdoors.
  6. You get to share in a child’s special moments: personal, family and school.
  7. You get to laugh every day, lots and lots of times.
  8. We help children handle failure, manage mistakes and learn from experience.
  9. You can shape the day ahead by delivering an assembly to remember.
  10. We get PPA time – that’s unheard of in other professions.
  11. We get to go on amazing trips that enrich our lives– no other job lets us share the excitement of day-trips and field-trips.

Colleagues:

  1. You get help – teaching assistants are teaching partners.
  2. You belong to a team of professionals that want to help you get better.
  3. You are never alone – there is always a support network to share with, collaborate with and come to the rescue.
  4. We can steal each other’s ideas and no one gets upset about it.
  5. You have a ready-made pool of experience to tap into at anytime.
  6. You can rely on your colleagues to fight your corner.
  7. We can work with our colleagues to make genuine and long-lasting positive contributions that impact on the school.
  8. We work with a team of optimists who see problems as opportunities.
  9. We work with pro-active and like-minded individuals with vision.
  10. We work with colleagues who are persistent who never say never.
 Lifestyle:
  1. You have the option to work full-time or part-time.
  2. You enjoy better holidays than most professions.
  3. We have guaranteed Christmas and New Years with family and friends.
  4. Teaching can fit around our changing circumstances and private lives.
  5. Teaching is a job for life: teachers will always be needed.
  6. The school day starts and ends at specific times so there is consistency.
  7. You can arrive early and stay as late as you need.
  8. You get access to the school cafeterias some of which make meals especially for their teachers.
  9. Staff benefits and discounts are available to us via union and society memberships.
  10. You can plan ahead knowing each term’s schedule of events and focus on your family and well-being.

Culture:

  1. As a teacher, one can never stop learning.
  2. Teachers integrate with so many different people from different backgrounds and cultures.
  3. You are part of a teaching culture that is always changing and so there is never a dull moment.
  4. You play a key role in the identity and corporate image of the school.
  5. You get to contribute to a culture of success by teaching future leaders helping pupils develop.
  6. Schools are ‘can-do’ places and you play a vital part in making sure pupils ‘can-do’; without you, many ‘can’t do’.
  7. You are part of a corporate culture dedicated to growth – you never stop growing the more you help pupils improve.
  8. The culture of growth means that pupils you see at the beginning of term are transformed by then end of the year!
  9. A school culture thrives on relationships and connections – you get to make lifelong friendships.
  10. School culture is based on learning so you never stop improving yourself and others around you.

 Respect:

  1. Teaching is a time-honoured profession of great historical importance.
  2. Teachers are respected by pupils.
  3. Teaching is respected by family and friends.
  4. Teaching is respected by other professions.
  5. Teachers can have a lot of influence in their local communities.
  6. Teaching enables you to give back to your community.
  7. You get given cards and gifts thanking you for doing your job.
  8. You have tremendous influence when it comes to teaching tolerance, respect and diversity, so pupils understand that our differences are strengths and not weaknesses.
  9. We have self-respect because our work is meaningful and adds enormous value to society.
  10. We have self-respect because we can choose what we want to do and can start each day with renewed optimism.

Career:

  1. You have the option to teach children and adults or both.
  2. You have the option of teaching anywhere in the country.
  3. There are teaching opportunities across the world.
  4. You can opt out and opt back in.
  5. Teachers can enjoy comparative financial stability in times of austerity.
  6. Teaching offers job security.
  7. We can improve our salary for each year of experience we work.
  8. Teaching is the polymath profession encompassing a huge number of skills.
  9. You can advance knowledge in your subject by writing for magazines, journals and blogs.
  10. You can express yourself as a teacher and develop your own style. If you want to be a maverick or a trailblazer, no need to ask for permission – just be yourself.

Professional Development:

  1. There is infinite opportunity for advancement.
  2. We have vast educational opportunities open to us as teachers and can advance our own qualifications via our work.
  3. We can increase our autonomy and responsibility as middle and/or senior leaders, trainers and inspectors.
  4. Every second of your day-to-day is professional development.
  5. We are the recipients and users of amazing technology and always learn something new.
  6. We can specialise in one area or develop opportunities to teach across the curriculum and develop our skills.
  7. We get to interact with educators across different platforms and other teaching  professions.
  8. The knowledge and understanding we gain on a daily basis develops us as people.
  9. You can engage in action research, innovate and lead change.
  10. You can become a teaching activist and campaign for change to better the profession.

Creativity:

  1. Teaching offers unparalleled variety and no repetitive tasks.
  2. Our work is inherently creative and forever interesting.
  3. Teaching breeds divergent thinking.
  4. You get multiple chances to inspire others with creative lessons.
  5. You share creativity and you get it back – pupils inspire us.
  6. Teaching allows you to be as creative as you want whereas other jobs allow no freedom of thought at all.
  7. Teaching allows you the luxury of reflection and contemplation that other jobs don’t allow.
  8. You can be held responsible for helping to inspire new projects and new initiatives that have impact.
  9. You can help pupils get ‘in the zone’ and
  10. You get to be in your element every day.

 Safeguarding:

  1. We get to work with vulnerable young people which is a privilege.
  2. We act in ‘loco parentis’ which is a hugely rewarding responsibility.
  3. We can protect children from harm.
  4. We are respected by pupils and they come to us for help.
  5. We have opportunities to make real positive changes in the lives of all children.
  6. We have a genuine chance to help the most disadvantaged.
  7. You get a constant supply of challenge and help pupils overcome obstacles and adversities.
  8. You get to guide and map choices and can heavily influence futures.
  9. You can positively impact on a pupil’s family.
  10. We are respected advocates for healthy lifestyles, mental health and well-being.
  11. We are powerful role models.
  12. We can stop a cycle of hate, negativity and blame by giving pupils the will and  motivation to be successful.
  13. We are a shoulder to cry, a sounding board and source of strength.
  14. We might be the only ‘safe’ person a pupil can go to when they feel threatened or have suffered harm from another adult.

Parents:

  1. You get to advise parents on their child’s learning.
  2. You can influence pupil behaviour at home and channel positivity into home environments.
  3. You can suggest ‘what works’ and help parents and pupils work together.
  4. You can foster meaningful relationships and build bridges.
  5. You can be a positive role model to parents in need.
  6. You can help parents with aspects of child development, creative play, family health, nutrition and behaviour.
  7. You can energise and give parents hope for their child’s future.
  8. You get opportunities to support struggling parents who look up to you as much as pupils do.
  9. Parents come to you for help, to share concerns, to seek reassurance.
  10. You get to give parents feedback, lots of times positive, sometimes amazing.

Other great reasons:

  1. Teaching is emotionally rewarding.
  2. We can help children dream big and achieve.
  3. Teaching is not a boring desk job.
  4. Teaching is an ever-changing and interesting profession.
  5. We are always learning something new.
  6. Teaching is a fast paced profession that keeps us mentally active.
  7. We have a responsibility for success so we get to breed success every day and share in success all the time.
  8. Our teaching knowledge and skills are invaluable for teaching our own children.
  9. Teaching is a challenging and stimulating profession that excites and motivates – we can never be bored!
  10. You will always make a difference to someone’s life.
  11. You teach pupils, their brothers and sisters, their cousins and eventually their children! Teaching is a family.
  12. Schools are always full of young people who keep you young at heart, motivated and focused.
  13. Teaching enriches lives and especially your own.
  14. You get to experience the magic, buzz, pleasure, enthusiasm and joy of teaching children every day.
  15. Pupils rely on us to reboot and restart every day with a fresh mindset of positivity and optimism.
  16. We make the impossible possible.
  17. We get to be lifelong learners.
  18. Teaching gives us a deep sense of purpose.
  19. The positives always outweigh the negatives…

Lolly Sticks and ’Hands Down’ are not Cold Call: Key Differences & Why They Matter

A good summation from Doug Lemov on why ‘cold call’ is better than a random name generator.

Cold Call, as you probably know if you read this blog regularly, is one of my favorite techniques- meaning that it’s one of the techniques that has the greatest potential to increase the rigor and engagement in a classroom. I also love that it can be used by almost any teacher and in concert with almost any other approach. You don’t have to change everything about your class to get the benefits. You can do what you do and add Cold Call to it tomorrow.

That said, the details matter. Without them Cold Call can go wrong. Keeping it positive is one of the biggest keys to execution. I’ve written about it here.  Managing the pause is another key point worth reading about (here).

But there’s a particular point of confusion about Cold Call that’s common both in the US and in the UK that I’d like to address.  Teachers sometimes conflate Cold Call with something known as “Popsicle Sticks” (in the US) or as ‘Hands Down’- sometimes ‘lolly Sticks’-in the UK.  This involves telling students to lower their hands and calling on students using a random generator—names on sticks.  Many teachers find it easier psychologically than Cold Calling and they often tell me, “Oh, I love Cold Call,” and then they describe popsicle/lolly sticks.

I love a classroom where the expectation is that students may be called on at any time and expected to participate positively and I think Hands Down can do that so I don’t think that it’s necessarily wrong. But it’s not Cold Call. And I think the differences matter so I want to take a moment to explain why.

Key Differences:

  • In TLaC I describe the use of random generators (e.g. lolly/popsicle) sticks but I include it in Pepper not Cold Call. I did this because Pepper emphasizes game-ish-ness and energy but it’s not strategic. And sticks aren’t strategic. Intentionality—who you call on–matters a LOT.  So does signaling intentionality to students. For example Matthew has been struggling to add fractions and just got one right. I want to Cold Call him to see how he’s doing and or let him succeed in public. Or maybe he just struggles and I think he needs more practice. So I route questions to him.  Or I assign a bit of writing and Sabina has something very interesting that I want to use to start discussion. So I call on her even though her hand isn’t up.  Or maybe I want to Check for Understanding and take a statistical sample of my class—deliberately asking kids that I think represent where the class is generally.  There are a million reasons why who I Cold Call when is important. If I use popsicle sticks there I lose my opportunity for strategy.
  • Even if I don’t have a reason to Cold Call a specific student in a specific situation, using a random generator makes it explicit that I am not making intentional decisions about who to call on. It says: ‘I am not choosing intentionally’ and this too is a loss.  For example, one of Cold Call’s biggest benefits is its inclusiveness—it says, implicitly, “I care about your ideas and would be interested to know what you are thinking right now.”  To say: “David, what are you thinking?” tells David that you value his opinion and are thinking about his perspective at that moment. To use sticks is to say—‘It’s all about the same to me.’ It means there is nothing special or personal about being asked your opinion.  ‘You’ve been picked from the pile,’ is very different from ‘i want to hear your thoughts’ as one teachers put it. That to me is a HUGE difference.
  • Additionally, one of the primary purposes of Cold Call is to build student engagement, to involve students in class and to have them want to be involved. We see this all the time in our workshops for teachers, interestingly.  If one of us Cold Calls someone—positively, thoughtfully, genuinely asking what they think—we invariably see them start to raise their hand more frequently.  People are often a bit shy to speak up in a room of 120 or so but once they do it and feel success, well, they are in. We’ve made a hand raiser of them.  It’s similar in the classroom. Kids find they can do it and then they start to raise their hands.  This is a key point about Cold Call. I don’t want to ONLY use it. I want to balance it with taking hands because I want students to want to raise their hand. To raise your hand is to CHOOSE to participate, to want to speak. While Cold Call is immensely valuable, this, too, is valuable. So while it’s sometimes fine to say “hands down” I also think there are times to 1) just take hands or 2) let kids raise their hands and call on some hand-rasiers and some non-handraisers.   I can Cold Call to build accountability and inclusiveness but then also reward passion and enthusiasm.  I have seen video of classrooms where students respond to chronic use of hands down with anger.  ‘Why does it have to be random? Darla doesn’t even want to speak and I am burning with an idea.’  As a teacher, I don’t want to lose the ability to balance accordingly.
  • One other key difference is efficiency. Getting out the popsicle/lolly sticks takes time.  Each time you pull one (“Oh, boy! Let’s see who it is! Whoops Jaden’s not here….”) takes time.  And it interrupts the flow of normal conversation.  It’s hard for Amari to build off and elaborate on Janet’s point if there’s a circus of stick pulling in between.
  • As a bonus I thought I’d share a recent clip of ace teacher Jamila Davis Cold Calling.  Here interestingly, she’s just focusing on making sure her kiddos understand the task.  But look how efficient and positive it is, how she can Cold Call while she’s doing something else. And how the energy it creates sets her students up to read on their own with energy and engagement.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/201867776

Jamila Cold Call from Uncommon Schools on Vimeo.

  • By the way one other benefit of letting students raise their hands is that it is an outstanding source of data.  I ask a question and just 2 or 3 students raise their hands- that tells me something. Especially if I’ve built a culture of students wanting to raise hands. Now I have important data that much of my class is stumped.  Similarly if I ask a question and everybody raises their hands I think: hooray everyone in engaged but maybe if everyone thinks they can get it I need to start adding to the challenge of my questions, etc.

So…. can Hands Down or ‘popsicle sticks’ be entertaining to occasionally use?  Yes. Can these approaches bring a bit of ‘game show’ to your classroom from time to time? Yes.  Should you stop using them altogether? No.  My point is that from a learning perspective they are not nearly as valuable as Cold Call and that teachers often assume they are a form of Cold Call or achieve the same ends and value as Cold Call, which they don’t.