#022 Dani Quinn – Part 2: Michaela School, Behaviour, Drills, Culture

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On this episode of the Mr Barton Maths Podcast, I once again spoke to Dani Quinn.

This is Part 2 of my interview with Dani Quinn, the Head of Maths at Michaela Community School (Part 1 can be found here). Before we go any further, I feel I must clear a few things up. Firstly, I do not receive money or gifts or products or anything like that for having particular guest on the show, as has been claimed by some – although if representatives from Adidas, Apple, or Caribbean Cruises would like to be interviewed, then those rules could easily be changed. Likewise, I am not under any pressure whatsoever from anyone to have particular guests on the show. I choose who I find interesting and who I hope my listeners will find interesting. Secondly, if you disagree with what I say, or what my guests say, then that is absolutely fine. In fact, I encourage it. If you choose to air your disagreements on Twitter, copying in the likes of Ofsted, Nick Gibb, the NSPCC, the DfE and The Christian Society, then that is also fine. It is your right, after all. But if you make personal insults towards my guests who have given up hours of their free time, or tell me (as two people did) to “go to hell”, then I am unlikely to engage in debate with you. Whenever I say “I will see you on the other side” just before I introduce each guest, I didn’t quite expect the other side to be interpreted as the fiery gates of the underworld. I do these podcasts because they make me think about my own practice, learn things, strive to get better, and because I get to enjoy conversations with some of my heroes. If you want to debate, then brilliant, just try not to be a *?!* about it.

Anyway, onto the show. Now this interview is essentially split up into three sections.

Section 1 wasn’t really supposed to be a section at all – more of a quick way to introduce Part 2. But it led us into some unexpected and fascinating territory.
– I asked Dani what it is like to be head of maths in arguably the most scrutinised school in the country
– Why does she feel internal scrutiny more than external scrutiny, and why is this a good thing?
– Why are staff at Michaela so honest in their evaluations of each other both in and out of lessons – I found this bit fascinating, and I am sure the haters will have a field day with this one!
– How do Dani – and Michaela staff as a whole – react to something so public, like “angle-gate”?

Section 2 is the big one – behaviour at Michaela
– What is the philosophy underpinning the behaviour policy at Michaela?
– How does the system of merits and demerits work?
– On the spot we invent the game “Merit, De-merit, Nothing or Impossible at Michaela” (I need to work a little on the title before I sell this to And and Dec for millions) to see how common student behaviours would be dealt with at Michaela
– How does the policy of “no exceptions” or “no excuses” work when faced with students with particularly difficult circumstances?
– How do students who join the school mid-year cope with such a shift in culture and practice?

Section 3 returns to the topic of teaching mathematics,
– How do drills in maths lessons work at Michaela?
– How does Dani prevent students valuing speed ahead of accuracy?
– How does Dani decide which “tricks” or shortcuts are acceptable to be used in Drills, and which are not?
– We dig deeper into teaching the how before the why – something that I am fascinated about at the moment
– And then – after getting on so well over two podcasts and 6 hours of conversation – it all falls apart when Dani and I clash on the use of mistakes and misconceptions during explicit instruction. Should students be confronted with common incorrect procedures in a bid to convince them why they are wrong, or does this do them more harm than good? You’ll have to stick around to the end to find out.

You know what I am going to say here – I think this is a fascinating conversation. Whether you agree or not with what Dani says, and the philosophies and practices at Michaela as a whole, two things remain unequivocally true. Firstly, you cannot fault Dani’s enthusiasm, passion and dedication to what she believes in. Secondly, I guarantee it will make you think.

On Twitter Dani is @danicquinn
Her excellent blog can be found at: missquinnmaths.wordpress.com/
My educational research page can be found at: mrbartonmaths.com/teachers/research/

Dani Quinn’s Big 3
1. Median Maths Blog
2. UKMT Past Papers
3. David Rayner Textbooks

Dani’s Book recommendations:
Seven Myths About Education
Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College

You can find all the books my podcast guests have recommended here: mrbartonmaths.com/teachers/books/

If you enjoy this podcast, please share it with your colleagues, leave a review on iTunes if you have time, and feel free to give me a shout on Twitter where I am @mrbartonmaths

My usual plugs:

Thanks so much for listening, and I really hope you enjoy the show!

Craig Barton

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