Tom Bennett letting go #pgce #mfltwitterati

An awesome post by Tom Bennett talking about how a shocking night of street violence helped him find better equilibrium as a teacher. But the bit that really jumped out at me was at the beginning:

When I began to teach, I went home every night feeling like weeping, and spent lonely weeks racked with self-doubt and dismay. Children wouldn’t do the tasks I asked, and what kind of man was I? It was one of the lowest points of my life.

By my second year I wasn’t drowning any more, but I was barely breaking the surface. I fell into a familiar vortex of fail: my classes were all hard; they barely seemed to work when I asked; as time passed I did less and less about the behaviour because nothing seemed to make a difference, and I couldn’t cope with the effort of doing anything about it. As things got worse and worse, I circled the drain, hating myself, despairing for my ability as a teacher, and my ability to help children many of whom, seemed not to want to be helped. In many ways, I took their behaviour home with me every night, and it burned.

Oh boy, that sounds awfully familiar – and I’ve barely finished teaching practice and have had relatively little time swirling around the vortex of fail. Even Tom Bennett felt like that? *The* Tom Bennett? And it took several years to deal with it? And it was a street beating that helped him fix his classroom practice?

Why does anyone do this job?!

Tips on behaviour

Since I registered with the TES Online for job ads and free resources, they’ve been sending me regular emails with links to forum discussions, resources, daily job alerts, and links to blog posts from their wide panel of experts, in my topic and more widely.

I couldn’t possibly follow all the links. Who has time? But I do sample, and I have found some of the information patchy. Sometimes I’m too cynical – sounds like a good idea, but I could never make that work in my classroom. Sometimes it sounds too hard and I dismiss it.

But two links today in an email have been utterly fantastic and had me cheering as I read them.

Firstly Tom Bennett’s tips for new and inexperienced teachers and those who work with us – OMG, awesome! Read through, do! I don’t like everything Tom says elsewhere and haven’t always agreed with everything he suggests, but this article is amazeballs. At the start of teaching practice in particular I was concerned at his “always have a seating plan” instruction – now I’m increasingly sold.

Secondly, Phil Beadle’s specific advice on seating plans and room layouts. Have your tables in groups if at all possible, preferably groups of six. One of the rooms I teach in is in groups, and it is the home to some of the worst behaviour when I am teaching, at least partly because most of the students are not looking at me but at other students and it is really easy to start conversations. But I am increasingly of the view that a group layout is best for MFL if not other subjects, because whenever I plan those lessons I am always thinking more about group and pair work than the other room layouts, because they are already in groups of four.