Becoming a Teacher



December 2016

Pausing to reflect

As this term draws to a close I hope you are feeling proud of what you have achieved!

In the last week there have been a couple of key aspects of the course that I think are worth touching on and I would encourage you to spend a moment before January reflecting on how they have impacted on you as a teacher:

Mental health and emotional wellbeing

I hope last week helped you consider your own mental health as well as your role as a teacher in supporting the young people you teach. The image of the oxygen mask that Claire shared seemed to sum up why it is so important to take time to look after yourself:


The idea that you can’t expect to look after others if you don’t care for yourself seems a very sensible mantra to take forward to next term.

Talking to several of you, the workshops seemed to raise really important issues that challenged you to think about your own preconceptions about mental health. Don’t worry if the issues covered unnerved you, or if they made you judge yourself unfavourably. I have constantly been humbled in my career as a teacher and been challenged to rethink my views and preconceptions about all sorts of things. I have got used to acknowledging I was wrong and tried to get more excited about seeing it as an opportunity to learn and feel better about myself as a person. I definitely don’t get it right all the time (or even most of the time!) but, by being open to having to change myself, there are at least moments!

Education for social justice

This week you have been focusing on education for social justice and I would encourage you to reflect on how your understanding of this term, ‘education for social justice’, has developed and what this means for your growing teacher identity. Try to take a moment to record a definition of the term, what it means to you right now and what questions you have in your head.

Speaking to tutors, you have done a wonderful job of designing some very thought provoking discussions about issues that are potential barriers to pupils’ success in school. Try not to see this as a ‘job done’ but just the beginning of an exploration into how you can break down these barriers as a teacher.

I was talking to some of you this week and you were saying you want more ‘strategies’ for supporting pupils who are troubled or finding life difficult in school. I can completely understand this sentiment (and these strategies will develop over time) but I actually think, as a starting point, it is much simpler than needing a set of techniques. All you need to do is take the time to treat pupils how you would want to be treated yourself. For example:

Think how you would like to be greeted by someone when they first see you on a day – do you want to be told what to do immediately or would a moment where they just said hello and asked how you were first make a difference?

If you are going through a tricky time what would you want someone to do – do they need to solve your problem and do something specific or do they just need to notice and allow you to have a small moment to yourself?

The things that make the biggest difference to pupils through a school day are often not major interventions (there are experienced members of staff who have these roles and responsibilities). It is simple things that revolve around taking the time to pause and notice, smile and be kind.



SEND and modes of reflecting

As this week draws to a close, I hope you have enjoyed being back in University, thinking through this term, analysing your experiences and continuing to develop your knowledge about teaching and learning.

On Wednesday you focused on Special Educational Needs for the day and I thought I would use this as an opportunity of showing you one way in which you could quickly reflect and capture your ideas on a topic . Have a look at this mind map – I created this whilst sitting in the morning lecture listening to Patricia, Domand Phil. If I am totally honest I did spend five minutes adding colour later in the day but it really was only five minutes!


I like mind maps because you can add to them over time and keep all reflections on a topic in one place. It might not work for you but it may give you a new idea that you could try out.

Keeping with a focus on SEND you might also be interested in the following series of short BAFTA award winning animations:

All are real-life stories bringing concerns around some serious psychological issues into focus. As you watch them, I would encourage you to think about how a pupil dealing with a particular issue might present themselves in your classes and how they might respond to your subject.

What might they find particularly difficult?

What could you do to pre-empt a situation that might be difficult for them?

 If you take the Asperger’s Syndrome video, for example:

  • How might you meet the child as they arrive at your room?
  • What instructions could you give them that might alleviate some of their stresses?
  • Where would be a good place to sit them in your classroom?
  • What activities might be problematic? How could you adapt them?

How could you do these things without drawing attention to the pupil or making them feel marginalised?

Finally I leave you with data from the Communication Language Trust. Have a read through this and try to have a think about what might be going on and what questions are raised for you as a teacher:

Poor spoken language puts young people at risk of poor literacy, poor behaviour, poor social and emotional development and poor attainment.

  • Just under 14% of pupils with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) get 5 good GCSEs (including English and Maths) compared to nearly 61% of all young people.
  • 50-90% of pupils with persistent SLCN go on to have reading difficulties.
  • Studies have also shown that many pupils excluded from school have language difficulties that the adults around them are not aware of.

More than 1 million children in the UK have long term, persistent difficulties.

  • In areas of social deprivation, the numbers of pupils with SLCN is greater than elsewhere.
  • While we would expect around 10% of young people to have long term SLCN, at Key Stage 4, less than 1% of pupils have SLCN identified as their primary need.
  • A detailed study showed 83% of young people assessed in one inner city secondary school had SLCN which hampered learning, behaviour and social relationships.
  • Language development continues throughout the secondary years, and though changes in spoken language can be subtle, they are important for overall development, progression and attainment, for building relationships and for working and communicating with others.

The Communication Trust (2015) Universally Speaking

Try to consider each of the statements above and:

  • ask yourself a question – e.g. why do SLCN go unrecognised?
  • think about something you could do as teacher of your subject that could support pupils with SLCN – when explaining a new concept; when explaining a task; when creating resources; when asking pupils questions; when marking and assessing work; when giving feedback; ..

What small changes could make a big difference?

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