The Primary Directive

2nd November 2007 at 00:00
The passionate and the practical. Two very different ways to inspire and control the classroom.Inspiring Primary Teaching. Denis Hayes. Learning Matters, pound;12.

A cursory glance at the title and cover led me to expect a book full of pen portraits of inspiring teachers, so the rather formal academic language of the introductory section took me by surprise.

Once I got over my mistake and got into the book, I couldn't put it down. It is slim enough to be read in one go, but it is equally easy to dip in and out of.

The book is aimed at new and trainee teachers (or anyone who's feeling a bit stale, I suppose) and while the language is formal and academic, it is certainly not dry or dusty. It is based on a belief that learning is about more than simply achieving good test results.

While the author acknowledges the tension between education-for-exams and education that helps to build a civilised and moral society, he does not regard them as mutually exclusive. Indeed, he suggests strongly that good teaching should enable children to do both.

Denis Hayes has strong opinions about the importance of teachers' attitudes to learning (and learners). He clearly disapproves of what he calls "constrictive" teachers with low expectations that are based on preconceived ideas of innate intelligence.

His ideal is the "liberating" teacher, with a firm belief in the potential of all children, who has high expectations for all pupils and who does his or her best to empower all of them to learn.

This is powerful and passionate stuff, but the author does not just give you his vision of what an inspiring primary school teacher should be and do, he sets out to show you how to be that teacher.

The chapter titles are clear and each is followed by four or five key questions. Well-explained educational theory and philosophy is balanced with practical hints and tips, as well as useful checklists. Carefully chosen classroom case studies and anecdotes are included to illustrate his points.

The regular read-and-reflect boxes work well because they ask the reader to think about their own classroom practice. There are also plenty of what-the-experts-say boxes that pick out useful academic references for essay writers.

A special mention must go to the section summarising types of questions and their uses. It is surely destined to be photocopied for teaching practice files for years to come. I only wish it had been available when I was training.

While Denis Hayes sets high standards, the tone of his book is encouraging and supportive. It is reassuring to be reminded at regular intervals that new teachers need time and perseverance to learn the skills required and that even the best teachers have bad days.

If you aspire to be the kind of teacher who makes a real difference to children's lives, then you should definitely go out and buy this book.

Cathy Doberska teaches at English Martyrs Roman Catholic Primary School, Tilehurst, Reading

The Practical Guide to Primary Classroom Management. Rob Barnes. Paul Chapman Publishing, pound;14.99.

This book will be valuable for student teachers and newly qualified teachers, or anyone who is experiencing challenging pupils for the first time.

It sets out 10 principles of behaviour management for each teacher, which I felt to be sound advice. The author recommends being in control by varying your pitch but not your volume, and creating a good working relationship with your class. Behaviour happens for a reason and it is important to understand why.

Each chapter ends with a section called "questions and issues for reflection", and one called "a checklist summary", which would be useful as a guide to the chapter. The author gives the reader advice on dealing with attention problems, establishing routines and setting targets.

The only problem I could see would be the teacher not starting with the school's behaviour policy. As a new teacher or student, you must use the systems in place at your school before trying others. Rewards and sanctions will only work if the whole school adopts the same approach

Sally Saunders is a deputy head in London.

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