TES letters

7th November 2014 at 00:00

Praiseworthy ideas must have teachers at their heart

Excessive praise is one of the worst mistakes a teacher can make when feeding back to pupils about their work ("Why praising to the skies clouds the issue", 31 October). It is patronising, misguided and shrouded in a cloak of low expectations.

Praise is an extremely powerful tool, and when used correctly transforms children's learning. But for children to understand something fully, they need to recognise exactly what was good about what they did. Indiscriminate and lavish praise, such as "well done" or "good work" is a waste of precious learning time.

Teachers spend hours correcting pupils' writing. Why not just tell children in plain English what they did right and ask them to explain how they will apply this new understanding in their future work? This specific praise would save hours of marking and move children on in leaps and bounds.

Pupils would be far better off if teachers took notice of Professor Robert Coe's research and replaced lavish praise with specific praise when feeding back to children.

Julia Andrew
Teaching and learning advisor, Bexley

This interesting article sadly appears to address "training" rather than "education". Any mention of a toolkit implies that some silver bullet exists that will solve all ills in schools today.

But as Alex Quigley, assistant headteacher at Huntington School in York, points out, toolkits work only when people fully understand why they are effective. One size can never fit all and although some ideas are generally sound, the degree to which they are applied in any one setting is the essential difference.

Indeed, letting children research key ideas for themselves is appropriate for some but disastrous for others. It depends on the insight of the teacher about what is right for which pupil and in what context. As the article states: it is all about training teachers and that is what we must get right.

Frederick Sandall
Retired headteacher

Presence of mindset

Although I disagree with the criticism that Carol Dweck's mindset theory lacks obvious practical application, full credit is due to Katie Walton for demonstrating an effective approach to using it in the classroom ("Giving your pupils a mindset growth spurt", Professional, 31 October). Dweck's work explains why lavish praise can be counterproductive - also covered in "Why praising to the skies clouds the issue" - and her advice on effective encouragement should be heeded by all teachers.

Julie Robinson
Education and training director, Independent Association of Preparatory Schools

Workload is one burden among many

Ann Mroz's comments in her editorial "Your country needs you - but should it be asking?" (24 October) were spot on.

I am a newly qualified teacher and, as a former solicitor, I am familiar with targets and responsibility. I truly love my job but the workload is something else. And the fact that many children come to school hungry and tired, and do not read at home, creates a burden on teachers that I did not anticipate.

I want to teach but I have to fight through so many issues of safeguarding, child protection and poor parenting. One boy in particular is distressed because he doesn't understand why he can't live with his mother who has had seven of her children removed and now has a new baby. When is the government going to take responsibility for getting a grip on parenting?

Newly qualified teacher
Name and address supplied

Let's present a united front on transition

Michael Tidd makes many valid points in his excellent article on transition and the importance of regular, effective communication between primary and secondary teachers ("Transition shouldn't be the end for primaries", Comment, 31 October).

As a director of inclusion and leader of a secondary nurture provision described by Ofsted as "inspirational", I place tremendous importance on working with primary class teachers and parentscarers to identify key issues. As the article implies, communication plus environment plus key people equals success. A collegiate approach, unswervingly focused on the needs of the child, is what works.

Garry Freeman
Special educational needs coordinator and director of inclusion, Leeds

Laying the stress on schools

So education secretary Nicky Morgan doesn't want her child to be taught by someone too stressed and anxious to do the job well ("Teachers share workload worries in their thousands", 31 October). In the present circumstances, teachers are unlikely to enjoy a stress-free environment. So what level of anxiety would she find acceptable for her child's teachers?

Tony Mills
Semi-retired languages tutor

Feminism for all, regardless of gender

Calls to demarginalise feminism are all too familiar but Rebecca McGrath offers a refreshing attempt to outline an approach for practically applying the theory within schools ("Empowering young women: you can do it!", Professional, 31 October).

Feminism is not simply about empowering women but about equal empowerment of all individuals regardless of their gender. Unfortunately, the article falls prey to a disproportionate focus on female issues and depicts men as in opposition to women. If we are unable to frame our argument for equality in a balanced way, how can we expect to successfully implement a philosophy of equality in our day-to-day experiences?

Amy Clark
PGCE student

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