How many teachers does it take to change a light bulb?

10th October 2014 at 01:00
None, according to a new book of top tips from pupils and staff

If Year 3 pupils ask to go to the toilet, let them. Book in sleep rather than lesson-planning for the first Monday night of term because you will be exhausted. Don't clear up sick or vacuum the carpet; delegate.

These are some of the tips included in Don't Change the Light Bulbs, a new compendium of teaching tips published this month. The book includes contributions from more than 70 British teachers, school leaders and pupils.

The collection was compiled by Southampton secondary teacher Rachel Jones. "They were just people I thought had a lot to say, or whose blogs were interesting," she said of her contributors. "It became a bit of a monster. I kept asking, and people kept saying yes, and suddenly I had all this stuff."

The book includes chapters on most school subjects, although, in keeping with its origins, each is more blog-like in style. There are sections on primary and secondary leadership and special educational needs. But some chapters are of general interest, with titles such as "Behaviour", "Respect" and "Lazy Teaching".

"It's a dipping-in book, I think," Ms Jones said. "Teachers don't get a lot of time to read lengthy pieces, to sit and digest them.

"Teachers are subject masters - they have that craft already. What we're always developing is our craft of pedagogy. We have the responsibility to always try and be better."

Three of the chapters compile tips from primary and secondary students. "Listen to your teacher - they know lots," writes Year 3 pupil Finley. Also: "Be nice at playtime."

"I'm a child-centred educator," said Ms Jones, who works as an e-learning coordinator and Classical Civilisation teacher at the independent King Edward VI School in Southampton. "I don't know if that's trendy any more - I can't keep up. But it was important to me, in a book about teaching, to make sure that the learners were represented."

She acknowledges that some of the advice is contradictory. One school leader, from whose chapter the book's title is taken, writes: "Your job is not to change the light bulbs, clear up sick, vacuum the carpet or place orders. Delegate."

Another, however, writes later in the book: "Model the behaviours you want to see - be the baddie in the staff panto, clean up the sick.

Jill Berry, one of the contributors and a former Nottinghamshire headteacher, said: "There are no hard and fast rules. I was the sort of headteacher who would wipe the tables at lunchtime but there are lots who would think that was undignified.

"You find your own way. I don't think anybody in the book is saying, `This is what you must do.' They're saying, `This is what you could do.' It's about having that choice."

The aim of the book, Ms Jones said, was to try and recreate in old-tech form some of the to-and-fro that goes on between teachers on Twitter. Each contributor is identified by Twitter handle as well as by name, with the intention that debate about the book's content might spill over on to social media.

"You don't say `argue' on Twitter," Ms Jones said. "You say `educationally banter'.

"I don't think that many teachers are actually on Twitter - a really small percentage of the profession as a whole. But it's a window into ideas that you can get by just collaborating in that way, by looking outside your own classroom."

Profits from the book's sales will go to Action for Children, a charity that runs food banks in schools.

Don't Change the Light Bulbs is published by Crown House

Sage advice

On geography: "Do you always start your lesson in English? Imagine your class walking into the room to a starter in Polish or Welsh."

On RE: "Ensure that teaching is not superficial, theoretical or generalist: never say `all Muslims' or `all Christians'."

On inspections: "We don't need to put on a show. We aren't in a pantomime. It's exhausting and it can be spotted a mile off."

From a secondary pupil: "Always listen to teachers, family, friends or random strangers - you never know who you might learn something new from."

On school leadership: "Your job is not to change the light bulbs, clear up sick, vacuum the carpet or place orders. Delegate."

Also on school leadership: "Model the behaviours you want to see - be the baddie in the staff panto, clean up the sick."

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