Review Books - Learn to amaze and inspire

12th November 2010 at 00:00

How to be an Amazing Teacher

By Caroline Bentley-Davies

Crown House Publishing #163;16.99

Most of us can remember an amazing teacher from our own school days. We looked forward to their lesson each week; they understood us and helped us succeed; they fascinated and inspired us. Amazing teachers make teaching appear relatively easy. They have a brilliant rapport with even the most difficult classes and are almost always smiling. How do they do it?

Can you really teach someone how to be an amazing teacher? Caroline Bentley-Davies says she can. Her book is absolutely bursting with tips to transform a good teacher into an amazing one, and it will make everyone who reads it a better teacher. It is reassuring to read that I already employ some of the techniques the author considers essential to the amazing teacher's practice, but I picked up many more inspiring ideas throughout the book.

All teachers, regardless of how long they have been teaching, should be given this as a handbook. In fact, the longer you have been teaching, the more useful it may be - it is all too easy to slip into the same routines and to stop challenging and improving your skills. It is important to be excited about your subject and your profession because it rubs off on your students, and this book reignites that passion. Bentley-Davies has advice for everyone, from NQTs to those with years of experience. The book is guaranteed to leave you feeling fired up and eager to get back into the classroom to try out some of her ideas - even with bottom-set Year 9. In fact, after reading this, you will be especially keen for the challenge they present.

Many of Bentley-Davies' ideas are simple and not necessarily ground-breaking, yet they are practical and effective. You may have heard some of her advice at Inset days and continuing professional development sessions, and you will remember some of it from your teacher-training days. But we all need regular reminders to embed excellent ideas into our daily practice. This book should be kept on a shelf in every teacher's classroom or office and accessed frequently as part of their teaching toolkit.

It is also an extremely enjoyable read. The author sets out her ideas in a user-friendly way, allowing you to dip in and out of the book if you feel a particular area of your teaching needs a boost. However, I am sure you will not be able to put it down once you start. This practical guide covers everything from the skills required to be an outstanding teacher to lesson planning, asking the right questions in class, the perfect starters and plenaries, hints for setting homework, making Assessment for Learning happen in your classroom, ensuring that every student makes progress, and coping with the most difficult classes - and colleagues.

The book also acknowledges the difficulties and stresses of the profession and offers strategies and ideas that really work in the classroom. It even offers tips on managing your time at work and at home, and keeping yourself fresh and interested. Bentley-Davies is refreshingly realistic and offers hands-on advice that you can start using straight away. The section on "student voice", which focuses on the pupil's experience in the classroom, is insightful and helps you understand the characteristics that pupils want and value in their teachers.

Every teacher knows that you need to involve your pupils at every opportunity - you shouldn't just speak to them didactically. Bentley-Davies has built in "thinking points" every few pages that help the reader analyse what they have just read. These help to reflect on current practice and encourage you to set yourself targets for trying out new techniques.

It's a practical, inspiring and enlightening read, which reminds you that although it may take time, effort, commitment and the ability to be honest about your performance, the skills of an outstanding teacher are, in essence, learnable. Read it as soon as you can if you are on a quest to become an amazing teacher. It will not disappoint.

About the author Caroline Bentley-Davies

Caroline Bentley-Davies is a former head of English, GCSE examiner and secondary English and media adviser in Northamptonshire. She is now a freelance teaching and learning consultant.

The verdict 910.

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