Ideas about teaching



    teachers make a difference, but they don’t make all the difference. Young people need the help of adults to learn, especially in the early years. Teachers can create conditions that can help students to learn a great deal – or to keep them from learning much at all. But we must stop pretending that schools and teachers can do everything. Most learning takes place outside school. Even in school there are limits to what teachers can achieve: they can influence learning but not determine it.


teaching is a complex activity. There are no simple prescriptions for success. It is not just a matter of technique. To do it well requires a greater level of reflection and awareness than many activities and a willingness to deal with uncertainty and paradox.


we teach who we are. Teaching comes from within. How we relate to what we are teaching and to our pupils depends on who we are as teachers and as people. Connecting with our pupils means giving a little of ourselves and being prepared to be vulnerable. Developing our practice depends heavily on self knowledge and self awareness.

4. good teachers have a sound understanding of what they are teaching. As well as a knowledge about how to communicate their understanding to others, they also care about what they are teaching and have an ability to bring it to life.

they try to see their pupils as they really are both as people and as learners – what motivates them, how they prefer to learn and what they already know and understand. 

6. good teachers are good improvisers. They tend to make what is learned the focus of attention, but they don’t deliver a set curriculum to a rigid plan. They are able to develop, refine and reinvent what is to be learned depending on what works for them and their pupils.
7. they create a learning community in the classroomwhere there is a high level and quality of action and interaction. They have the skills, the confidence and the energy to talk with children rather than at them, and to encourage debate and dialogue.

Ian Smith

From a really good website



    intelligence is not fixed. We all have much greater potential for learning than is commonly recognised. Given the right opportunities we can all develop our ability to learn: the early years are vital, but the human mind is capable of lifelong change and development.


effort is as important as ability. Our actions as learners and as teachers are underpinned by our beliefs. A belief that intelligence is fixed undermines pupils’ motivation and causes teachers to lower their expectations of their pupils.


learning is strongly influenced by emotion. Heart, mind and body – thinking feeling and action – are inseparable. This is why motivation is so important in learning.   If we want academic achievement we have to attend to young people’s physical well-being as well as to how they feel about themselves, about school and about each other

4. we all learn in different ways. We have different abilities interests and preferred ways to learn. Good schools recognise the right of everyone to be different. They value all kinds of achievement and recognise that there can be no one ‘right’ way to teach or ‘best’ way to learn.

deep learning is an active process.  We learn best when we can make sense of what we are learning. The deeper the level of processing, the more likely we are to retain and make use of our knowledge.  Processing involves relating new information to what we already know and changing what we know in the light of that new information.

6. learning is messy. It does not happen at set times, at set places or in subject compartments. We rarely learn anything by proceeding along a single path to predetermined outcomes.
7. we learn from the company we keep. Although learning is something that goes on inside an individual’s head, at its deepest reaches it is essentially a communal activity: we learn most of what we know from and with each other .

Ian Smith

From a really good website

Some links to websites suggesting strategies for motivating students/pupils:

Procrastination and ManYana

    Almost everyone occasionally procrastinates, but a worrisome 15 to 20 percent of adults routinely put off activities that would be better accomplished right away.

    A penchant for postponement carries a financial penalty, endangers health, harms relationships and ends careers. And yet perpetual foot-draggers sometimes benefit emotionally from their tactics, which support the human inclination to avoid the disagreeable.

Research into the reasons people put off projects has led to strategies for helping all of us get and stay on task.

Raymond, a high-powered attorney, habitually put off returning important business calls and penning legal briefs, behaviours that seriously threatened his career. Raymond (not his real name) sought help from clinical psychologist William Knaus, who practices in Longmeadow, Mass. As a first step, Knaus gave Raymond a two-page synopsis of procrastination and asked him to read it “and see if the description applied.” Raymond agreed to do so on a flight to Europe. Instead he watched a movie. He next vowed to read it the first night at his hotel, but he fell asleep early. After that, each day brought something more compelling to do. In the end, Knaus calculated that the lawyer had spent 40 hours delaying a task that would have taken about two minutes to complete.

Almost everyone occasionally procrastinates, which University of Calgary economist Piers Steel defines as voluntarily delaying an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay. But like Raymond, a worrisome 15 to 20 percent of adults, the “mañana procrastinators,” routinely put off activities that would be better accomplished ASAP. And according to a 2007 meta-analysis by Steel, procrastination plagues a whopping 80 to 95 percent of college students, whose packed academic schedules and frat-party-style distractions put them at particular risk.

Thanks for reading this. I put it on the blog because I was interested in the idea – we all do this to some extent – don’t we? But particularly because they use the “correct” spelling of my company, ManYana…

Ten tips to improve pupils’ behaviour and attainment

1. Give pupils a language to describe their emotions; get them used to talking about their feelings. Encourage them to write a diary (see above).
2. Pay attention to pupils who are behaving well. Try and ignore misbehaviour. Make sure you reward good behaviour, not bad.
3. Be specific with your praise. Say precisely what you like about a pupil’s work or attitude. People always feel better when they know precisely what it is that they have done well. That way they can repeat that behaviour more easily.
4. Get your pupils to think very carefully about where they are sitting before the lesson. Ask them to choose to sit next to someone they don’t normally sit next to, and to decide in advance who this will be.
5. If a class is too noisy and not listening to you, split them up into smaller groups, ‘handpicked’ by you, and give everyone in the group a position of responsibility. A central tenet of emotional intelligence is that people should have feelings of power and control.
6. Give your instructions in a calm fashion. Try to avoid shouting and appearing angry. Show that you have control over your own emotions.
7. Pre-empt trouble by taking a long-term view. Emotional intelligence is about seeing the long-term perspective rather than the short term. By planning your lessons well in advance, providing a variety of different exercises that pupils can engage with, you are implicitly showing your pupils that the long-term view is the one that is best. The Elton Report found that poor behaviour in 80% of lessons was due to poor planning on behalf of the teacher. 
8. Walk away from confrontations. The emotionally intelligent teacher always buys him- or herself time to think about how best to deal with a situation.
9. Question poor behaviour, but don’t make blanket judgements about pupils. Make pupils think about their behaviour, not be defensive about it. Ask them how they are feeling about the lesson and why they are feeling that way.
10. Institute an emotional literacy programme during your tutor times. Encourage the whole school to participate.

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Nurturing Support from Parents

As your structure for managing behaviour develops, keep parents updated.  Write a letter home explaining the rules, rewards and sanctions and detailing some of the new strategies that are having an impact.  The conversations that you have with individual parents will start to have a shared context. 

  • Parents will understand your interventions are fair and be more inclined to support your decisions.
  • Some parents, who are searching for ideas themselves will begin adapting strategies for the home.
  • Your first communication with parents will be a positive one, leaving the door open to discuss concerns about their child in the future.

© Paul Dix 2006