The Coasting Teacher Myth

I should be wise enough not to let my anger rise just because of a mere education blog… I should be..

But this by apparently ‘The most influential  blog on education in the UK’ scratched a tender spot and I have to reply.

How the hell do you coast when you are faced with 30 children whom you have to teach and lead and cajole and re-teach and help and support and scold and listen to? At what time during the lesson are you coasting? Or are you coasting when are marking till late in the evening? Maybe you are taking it easy at the very moment you awake and your first thought of the day is “I haven’t photocopied those resources for lesson 1?” Maybe you are relaxing during the 3 hour “5 minutes an appointment” parents evening you had that started 10 minutes after a full teaching day?

Luckily there is a list in the article showing you how to spot a coasting teacher. Like a David Attenborough documentary we are shown all the characteristics that make up this mythical species. I think I know what these terms mean and so i have rephrased them


How to spot a coasting teacher?

  1. They move with all the energy of a stone trough – They are so genuinely full on exhausted you should be grateful they haven’t phoned in sick
  2. They are happy not to fulfill their potential – They are desperately trying to maintain some sort of work life which taking another responsibility with no extra time would destroy
  3. They feel under attack by any new initiative – You should think through your latest management issue and whether the improvement in learning it creates actually balances out the extra work it creates
  4. They see progress as a threat – Define progress
  5. They toe the line but reluctantly – They haven’t the confidence that their head teacher and leadership team will see any questioning of new ideas as anything other than subordination
  6. They have a closed-door policy – Your observation policy is threatening not supportive. Sort it out
  7. They spread negativity like Japanese knot-weed – Because they lack the confidence to speak to you (see 5) they talk to other teachers about changes to their work day. Its what people do in the staff room.
  8. They say ‘full circle’, ‘when I qualified we …’ and ‘mark my words’ – They have built up years of experience in the classroom (maybe more than the leadership team) you should value this.
  9. They pride themselves on being dinosaurs. They know that how things were done ‘back then’ still has some relevance and you shouldn’t throw all past knowledge out for the latest fad some new assistant head teacher has just introduced to the school at the least training day.


Sorry for the red font and the block capitals. but sometimes their symbolism is apt

Finally, I have written this myself and not paid someone else to write my own posts for me on my own blog 😉


Putting #TLT16 into Practice

You know what CPD can be like: if you’re lucky you get a bit of inspiration. A cracking new way of getting them to learn. One you haven’t thought of before. You scribble your ideas furiously onto the hotel logo headed paper, unwrap a wannabe fox’s glacier mint and treat yourself to some sparkling water from the middle of your round table. You stretch back and wonder how much the course leader gets paid. This nugget you will change your teaching forever.

24 hours later and you are battling with year 8. Who has and who hasn’t done their homework? Is that a forged note in her planner Mary is showing you? What did the head of year say about Kyle’s home life? Should you challenge him on his lack of effort? The bell goes and you remember you are on duty. That nugget will just have to wait till next week before you implement it.

Then next week comes and….  you can fill in the rest. The cheap headed note paper ends up getting buried further and further down on your desk and is eventually binned in July with only a snip of your regret going with it into the recycling.

Except I bring good news.

I have just used an idea I heard at #TLT16. Not a life-altering 360º change or anything. Just one small, simple rather obvious thing that I have used and watched have effect. I have a year 9 tutor group. They are lovely. They behave well most of the time and are a happy cheerful and polite bunch. i am proud of them. However they have been getting louder and louder when i take the register and i keep having to stop and ask them to be quiet and it wasn’t having any effect until ….

Lindsay Skinner was talking in the closing keynote about language and words teachers use or don’t use. She said that we shouldn’t say “Please be quiet” but the slightly more forceful “Be quiet”. I do exactly that and now they are quiet all the way through (nearly). I haven’t changed the tone of my voice , nor am I shouting. I have just dropped the “please” from my statement and it is so much more effective

20+ years of teaching and I am still taking advice on something as basic as taking the register. Just shows you good simple CPD can work. As John Tomsett said in the first keynote “Avoid using shiny new ideas that you don’t understand. Instead embed and improve what you do already.”

My original post on #TLT16 can be found here


Have applied 3 times but never got to a TLT event before. I loved it. As a result i am relaunching this old unattended and unused blog. I wanted to write something quickly before I even got onto the weekend marking, so things were fresh and as yet untainted by time pressures and skepticism. Below is a write up of my notes from yesterday. I have included any ideas I think I could actually employ in my teaching and their learning. I am following John Tomsett’s excellent advice from the opening keynote of not trying out ideas I liked the idea of but didn’t understand. I’ve been teaching more than long enough to have my own good ideas and practice.

John Tomsett (@Johntomsett ) – Keynote

  • Avoid using shiny new ideas that I don’t understand instead embed and improve what I do already
  • Use metacognition when going over mock exams and with a visualiser write down what I am thinking when I read the questions in the paper
  • Remember most pupils don’t use a pen outside of school so train them in writing a lot in 90-120 minutes
  • This slide of his on achievement is excellent ach

Andy Tharby (@atharby ) – Questioning

  • Get into a routine of using mini quizzes and questions as lesson starters to revisit last lesson, last fortnight, last half term’s work
  • Sequence these questions (and all questions) carefully to fit in with new GCSE spec demands on knowledge and skills
  • Include ‘crackerjack’ questions that cover more than one topic
  • Can I design a subject question template for GCSE topics like his one for English?template

John Tomsett – (@Johntomsett ) Assessment and progress

  • Concentrate more on dragging them all to the highest understanding than differentiating in lessons
  • Don’t talk about high, mid and low ability/ attainers instead say high mid and low starters
  • Overarching principles of assessment photo ……Assessment must improve learning (do all our KS3 topic assessments do this?)
  • Progress is relative… hard work and changing rates of development can have different effects. This shows how lower started pupil can pass higher starter. bell-curve

Stephen Lockyer (@MrLockyer ) – Challenge and Differentiation

  • Get pupils to self regulate their work. They should learn to how they could improve. (Maybe get them to argue with each other whose work is the best and why)
  • Convince pupils they are doing really well maybe working above their target level
  • I like the idea of every major piece having an audience, but in geography who is that audience?
  • Keep an excellent example of the end of topic piece of work to show next year’s pupils. My colleague is thinking of doing this via photos on a blog so it all also works as an online “praise website”
  • Get pupils who have understood to help explain to pupils who are still trying (geography expert photo?)
  • Beat the drum – publicise high achievements as much as possible (be unBritish)

Lindsay Skinner (@lindsayjskinner )- Keynote

  • One of the key peaks of attention in lesson is about 5 minutes in. So maybe start with one of Tharby’s quizzes and then 5 mins in hit them with a key introduction
  • Slow speech down when either it is a key part of the lesson or when you are dealing with a particularly tricky piece of bad behaviour
  • Leaving words out increases informality – consider that when giving instructions (and maybe adding one or two in when telling off)
  • Using anecdotes in class may help pupils see the teacher as a human being and treat them as such.

Nelson Mandela

I was at Wembley in 1990. Mandela came on after an afternoon of dull music. We clapped and cheered and clapped and cheers and shouted so long. I saw Nelson Mandela in the flesh and heard him speak. It was and will always remain one of the most important moments of my life. so here below are some resources which may be useful in your lesson to tell pupils about this man, who more than maybe any other gives us hope into the 21st century

If there was a prophet in our era it would be Nelson Mandela, & if Nelson Mandela was not in our era he would be a prophet”-@TamimBarghouti

Nelson Mandela This links to a short powerpoint that i put together last night. It has some pictures and quotes, a link to one of his speeches and some more of his quotes. All done in a rush. But so as to have something to tell the children. what could I do that was more important than that?

This link takes you to Channel 4 obituary/tribute to him (10 minutes long)

Ferghal Keane of the BBC and his obituary on Mandela

And this one to a collection of headlines and front pages from around the world

This is his life in photos from the Guardian

Changing the way Pupils Present in Class

I just stumbled across something that works really well………

I have had enough of sitting at the back of my class watching 6 different groups present their group work to the rest of the class.I am fed up with them: not knowing who is speaking next, long pauses, the group breaking into giggles, reading off a piece of paper, reading from behind a piece of paper, some people saying nothing, people not being able to read the writing of whoever wrote the speech. I am especially annoted when the whole thing takes up about half an hour.


I am trying this simple adjustment instead……

  1. Pupils complete the group work as before.
  2. But then they leave their presentation on their desk and in groups they wander around the room ‘art gallery style’ reading and looking at everyone ele’s works on the desk.
  3. The pupils judge each others’ work using the criterai that was established at the start of the work. (i have found this works better with the criteria on the board not on the desks)
  4. In their group, or individually, pick what they think is the best piece of work
  5. We hold a secret ballot
  6. The best one or two pieces of work are then displayed in the room and the’winning’ students are awarded a housepoint
  7. The pupils then complete 2 sentences in their book. “One thing I saw another group do that was good was…..” and “one thing that our group did well was….”

And honestly the whole process takes 15 minutes and produces better reflection and  learning than doing it another way.

But the best thing of all is the conversations the pupils have reviewing others’ work and referring to the criteria. It was a joy to listen to!

Note to  Teachers:

I used the old Geography Matters 1 text books as they have a section that contains a series of maps for 5 different settlements. however any OS map or maps would work with this. Equally, although we used the ipads and the right move app, a PC and their website does just as well. The powerpoint from the lesson is below

Thoughts on river severn stuff 2

Talking about Progress

Dont tell anyone, but i find marking SO boring.

I think this is often reflected with how my pupils receive their books back. The first thing they want to see is what mark/grade/level/percentage they got. Then the second thing they want to see is what mark/grade/level/percentage their friend got. Maybe they will then look at the comment and target I wrote – maybe. Unless of course I put it on a previous page to where their mark is. There is no way they are going to be bothered to turn back a few pages to look for something they are not interested in and might not even be there.

And so the lesson starts and, without anyone noticing it, we have all silently agreed that there may be a target in their book but we will not bother referring to it again.

How then do my pupils or myself actually know if they are making progress

So this year I thought we could change things a bit. I have 3 aims: 1) Improve the response to the targets I set 2) Improve my monitoring of these responses and 3) Not increase the amount of time I spend marking (see opening sentence)

So I have drafted this table to put in the front of their books at the start of the year. I would appreciate your thoughts as to the viability and effectiveness of this tactic.


  target Level at the time (if given) Page and date My reply Page and date for proof Teacher’s response
1 You need to describe geographical patterns in more detail 4c 12 and 10/10/13 Please see my comments on the map 16 and 29/10/13 Well done you have definitely got a level 4a now



Thanks to twitter suggestions, I am considering the following changes:

a) Speed the whole process up so pupils respond to original comment quicker. Maybe by setting the next homework as this task

b) Ditch mention of levels

c) Try it with only one year group and review at October half term ( I would prefer y8 I think)

still open to more suggestions though 🙂

The Ashes and not doing your homework

There were a lot of Englishmen and women talking about the cricket yesterday. The reason was that Stuart Broad had plainly hit the ball and been caught. Yet the umpire missed it and gave him not out.  Broad did not ‘walk’ and carried on batting. So was he correct to do this? Or was he cheating? And more interestingly, how different were his actions compared to another player who had recently been banned for 2 matches for claiming a catch that he knew had bounced before he caught it?


That made me think about pupils and their moral behaviour in my classroom. If I forget to take in homework and a pupil hadn’t done it should they put their hand up and own up to it? I think not; I would say they got away with it because of my mistake and poor teaching.

Then what about the pupil that says they have done the homework when they haven’t? I take in the class’ books and find she has deliberately lied to me. In this second situation I would certainly punish the pupil because I would consider her actions much worse than the first pupil’s.


So I say fair play to Stuart Broad. You carry on.