If you only read one thing….

Just in time for Christmas, University of Buckingham PGCE trainees reveal the books that have helped them through the first term.

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Paul Dix (2017). When the Adults Change, Everything Changes: Seismic Shifts in School Behaviour. Camarthen Independent Thinking Press.

Reviewed by Leah Joseph, PGCE trainee

Dix’s writing focuses on fostering a new culture at school which is spearheaded by the teachers. He argues that with the right culture, the strategies become less important and as our own behaviour as teachers and adults is the only factor we have total control over in the classroom, this is the behaviour we must focus on changing before the behaviour of the students changes. This includes shifting culture with recognition boards instead of advertising poor behaviour, which focus on recognition for positive learning attitudes, not just for functional behaviour such as doing well on a task. He also mentions sanctioning in private instead of public, high expectations, structured restorative conversation and nurturing value in intrinsic rewards instead of extrinsic rewards.

Dix presents his case with humanity and empathy for the students in the education system who have had behaviour management strategies inflicted on them relentlessly, in attempts to metaphorically beat them into submission and is heavily critical of extreme strategies such as isolation rooms, for the wellbeing as well as educational progress of students. Removing humiliation and negative emotion when dealing with behaviour may be challenging for some teachers to adapt to, however this would no doubt create more positive learning environment and improved mental health for students.

This newly released book is set to make waves in education as a practical and progressive text that can help teachers become accountable for being a role model as well as a teacher and shows that it is not only the students who need to change, but the teachers must also evolve for the motivation and behaviour of students to improve. There is little direct reference to pedagogical theory, however there is much anecdotal evidence and some statistics to support Dix’s case for reform in education.

This book has helped me to reflect on my own behaviour as well as the students’ to manage and improve behaviour. In addition practices such as giving more positive praise than negative sanctions, the consistent application of simple routines and high expectations for all have so far proved to be successful in nurturing a positive culture in the classroom.

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Greg Ashman (2018). The Truth About Teaching: Sage Publications.

Reviewed by: Sarah Cordes, PGCE trainee

I came across this book whilst researching for my assignment, which I have done based on the use of technology in the classroom. Greg Ashman dedicated a whole chapter to this topic! Even in 2018 some teachers make the same mistakes regarding the use of video in the classroom – such as putting a video on for the students, easy lesson done but nothing learnt – or not enough teachers take the jump to incorporate technology as a tool. It also has other chapters such as classroom management, student motivation, assessment and feedback and the phonics debate.

Strengths include easy to read chapters, looking at a variety of topics in teaching, with tried and tested studies that help to determine whether something can help in or out of the classroom and further reading (again, very useful for assignments!) I have found it incredibly useful and an honest look at teaching.

The book has made me re-think technology in the classroom, ironically. That sometimes technology can be a hindrance to learning if students are left to their own devices. One study that was done was where students were split into three groups, one given a laptop, one given a laptop but monitored its usage and one banned from using a laptop. The students who had no laptop performed better than those who did have a laptop.

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Jim Smith (2010). The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook: How Your Students Learn More when You Teach Less: Crown House Publishing Ltd.

Reviewed by: Atif Choudhury, PGCE trainee

I bought this book exactly 1 month ago after being introduced to it through a CTG Friday training session by Jeremy Heath. “By not asking the right questions, you can stifle learning by creating confusion, intimidating students and limiting creative thinking”. This book is an excellent way of keeping something simple (KISS), therefore not confusing any students and making it

challenging.

One game that I really like and have used twice as a mini plenary to check progression is cops and robbers. Just because of a simple game like this, my classroom environment is firm but fair, and I can use this game as a mini plenary. This also serves the purpose of bringing back the morale of the class. These ideas and activities can be applied to so many things and one of the main things I am teaching is the answer that has no justification to promote creativity. My only criticism would be that more visual assistance would be fantastic because I have to try to understand the game/activity and then it may not go according to plan.

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Tom Bennett (2010). The Behaviour Guru – Behaviour Management Solutions for Teachers : Continuum International Publishing Group.

Reviewed by: Hannah Shore, PGCE with QTS trainee

‘Hypochondriacs and how to cope with them’. This is just one of the many case studies that Bennett has used in his book. He includes a wide range of real life situations from low level disruption to challenging behaviour. Bennett uses some of his own experiences of working in inner-city schools, being the Behaviour Guru on the TES advice forum and working as a nightclub bouncer to help teachers, old and new, to assert their authority in the classroom.

I liked that this book is written in a lighthearted, down to earth manner with some jokes to keep the readers engaged. I felt that I was able to relate to some of the chapters, however I now feel armed with some great advice for if I do come across any of the other behaviour situations he described.

Although the book is very relaxing and easy to read, I often felt at times as thought I was being spoken down to. It would have been useful if there were some bullet point tips at the end of each section to summarise the behaviour management strategy as it is quite ‘wordy’.

From reading this book one positive difference it has made is that it has given me confidence in myself as a teacher. I feel that it is not just me that has to deal with difficult behaviour and it is interesting to hear how another person deals with it. The book has given me a variety of tools to use within school and given me confidence to deal with situations.

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Peter Hook and Andy Vass (2011). Behaviour Management Pocketbook : Teachers’ Pocketbooks.

Reviewed by: Joseph Hudson, PGCE with QTS trainee

I am recommending the ‘Behaviour Management Pocketbook’ by Peter Hook and Andy Vass. This book has been an invaluable resource in developing my behaviour management ‘toolkit’. A key concept that has really stuck with me is that children in schools are constantly trying to test the boundaries, and that it is our job as  teachers to set and maintain those boundaries.

The primary strength of this book is that it is small and easily transportable. It can be carried in your pocket and read at any convenient moment. This makes the valuable information contained within easily accessible. The book is informative, concise and is packed with straightforward and practical advice.

The only weaknesses that I can think of is that it may be easily lost, or may lack some of the depth of a more comprehensive novel. However, I keep mine in my desk drawer and I consistently refer to it, so its’ value is not to be underestimated.

This book has been incredibly impactful in my teaching practice, both in terms of behaviour management and, to a lesser extent, my pedagogy. This book has taught me about the concept of ‘status challenging’, where pupils will attempt to compete with you for the position of ‘high status individual’ within the room. They will engage in activities to attempt to disrupt your position and ‘lower your status’ (thereby reducing your ability to control the class). Reading this was like a lightbulb moment for me, as it provided a logical explanation for many of the low-level disruptive behaviours that I had observed in the classroom. The book goes on to provide you with a wide range of effective techniques to maintain your position as the ‘high status’ person in the room.

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Doug Lemov (2015). Teach Like a Champion : Jossey-Bass.

Reviewed by: Corinna Randall, PGCE with QTS trainee

This book was recommended by my school. This is an ideal book for trainees and contains lots of techniques/pedagogy for a variety of different standards. The book focuses on everything from behaviour management, in/outside of the classroom and techniques for inspiring students and improving classroom engagement. The best thing about the book is that it comes with DVDs and access to video clips of outstanding practice to help you visualise the techniques in practice. One weakness of the book is that the structure they recommend is very rigid and I found some techniques hard to apply. The book has has an incredible impact on the start of my career, I have established effective classroom routines that keep low level disruption to an absolute minimum and enables me to practice engaging pedagogical principles without the constraints of behaviour management.

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