Things that haven’t worked for me, and the things that have.

I’ve been teaching fifteen years. To mark it here’s a thread of all the things I’ve earnestly tried, that did no good whatsoever. Made in the hope it’ll save some other people some time.
1. Differentiation based on favourite learning styles.
2. Card sorts.
3. Role play.
4. Puppets.
5. Music in lessons.
6. Timing how much I talk and trying to cut it down.
7. Trying to engage pupils by designing activities around their existing interests.
8. No pen day.
9. Treating girls differently.
10. Treating boys differently.
11. Treating PP differently.
12. Assessing every lesson and putting the results on a colour coded spreadsheet.
13. WALT.
14. WILF.
15. All/most/should.
16. Brain gym.
17. Flipped learning.
18. Telling pupils to work hard so they’ll get to university.
19. Telling pupils to work hard full stop.
20. Group work.
21. Telling pupils how their brains work.
22. Cross curricular projects.
23. Singing.
24. Dressing up.
25. Telling pupils stories about my personal life.
26. Showing Horrible Histories videos in lessons.
27. Funny hats for different thinking ‘styles’.
28. Project work.
29. Information races.
30. Market place activities.
31. Pupils teaching each other.
32. Jigsaw groups.
33. Pencil crayons.(Sorry geography).
34. Stencils.
35. Mysteries.
36. Poster work.
37. Making stuff.
38. Blooms.
39. Trench warfare with paper balls.
40. Phoning parents repeatedly about poor behaviour.
41. Making personalised revision timetables.
42. Putting paper in coffee and then burning the edges.
43. Guided visualisation (WEIRD)
44. Messing around with seating plans.
45. Horseshoe arrangement of desks.
46. Waiting for silence with a difficult group in a school without systems.
47. Mediation.
49. Making a documentary.
50. Claymation.
51. Negotiating rules.
52. Insisting pupils look up all new words in a dictionary.
53. Getting pupils to form a hypothesis about something before they’ve been taught anything.
54. Promising a ‘fun’ lesson if children work hard.
Here’s my list of things that have worked. It is longer than I thought it would be.
1.Reading loads about the topics I’m teaching.
2.Planning and scripting explanations.
3.Learning names and using them.
4.Apologising if I get a name wrong or mispronounce it.
5.Spending time consciously getting better at writing and drawing on the board.
6.Regular testing.
7.Never allowing shouting out. Ever.
8.Saying ‘good morning’ to every child when I take the register.
9.Reading aloud to classes expressively and sometimes hammily.
10.Sharing scholarship.
11.Becoming comfortable with pupils spending lots of the lesson listening.
12.Telling children to stay safe over the holidays and meaning it.
13.Sharing worked examples.
14.Reading work regularly and telling children how to make it better.
15.Never apologising for the type of work I set.
16.Looking over my glasses at pupils who’ve gone off task and saying ‘ahem’.
17.Directly answering questions when I’m asked them.
18.Being patient when children don’t know things I think they should.
19.Half smiling like the child has tricked me into it when I see great work.
20.Making time when children want to talk about something they’ve learned in my lesson.
21.Walking and talking slower when I feel stressed.
22.Seats in rows. Boy girl seating plans made randomly. No changes unless parents ask for them.
23.Saying ‘welcome back, we’ve missed you’ to pupils who have been off for sad reasons.
24.Saying ‘welcome to the country, we’re glad you’re here’ to forlorn, lost children whose whole life has changed overnight.
25.Always having a stash of pens even when school policy says PUPILS MUST ALWAYS HAVE PENS.
26.Ditto A4 Lined Paper.
27.Asking for help after I’ve worked out who is actually helpful.
28.Cold Calling. (I’d be even better at this if I could crack always asking question before saying name)
29.Expecting silence as the norm when working.
30.Dressing smartly.
31.Smiling at a child when they’re working, look up, and catch my eye.
32.Getting children to practise routines for stuff like handing out books.
33.Telling the truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth at parents’ evenings in word everyone understands.
34.Never saying anything bad about another teacher or even hinting I might agree with what a child says.
35.Putting huge maps on my classroom walls.
36.Chisel tip board markers.
37.Lined whiteboards.
38.Letting pupils take textbooks home.
39.Letting pupils take exercise books home.
40.Booklets and Knowledge Organisers.
41.Not holding grudges.
42.Being really, really good at hiding the fact I do have favourites.
43.Learning about how children learn but not bothering them with it unless they ask.
44.Saying ‘no sorry, I’m too busy’ nicely.
45.Making time for my lunch.
46.Making friends with the people I work with.
47.Reminding myself that although I probably have less influence than I think, that doesn’t absolve me from doing all I reasonably can.
48.Not viewing all children as problems that need to be fixed.
49.Exercise and eating well.


7 thoughts on “Things that haven’t worked for me, and the things that have.

  1. Peter Tait says:

    That should be all that is needed at teachers training colleges – no ideology just a simple list or do’s and don’ts! Thanks for sharing Ben!


  2. Hi Ben, would you agree that this list is specific to you, to your preferred teaching style, to secondary teaching, and to your subject? I don’t see how a PE or drama NQT could manage without group work, and designing learning around interests works very successfully in EYFS. I’ve found guided visualisations useful rather than weird. Maybe the ‘best approaches’ are what works best for an individual – what do you think?


    • Absolutely I would. I’m pretty sure plenty of teachers get good results doing some of the things that I’ve found completely unhelpful. My issue is that I felt pressured to do these things and pressured not to do the things that did work for me.


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