On this episode of the Mr Barton Maths Podcast, I spoke to someone I’ve been wanting to get on the show for ages – Tom Bennett.
Among many other things, Tom is a former Religious Studies teacher, a prolific blogger, the Behaviour Advisor to the UK Department of Education and the founder of ResearchEd. He also has the notable honour of being the first ever non-maths specialist guest on the show, although you would never know it with his impressive recollection of the digits of Pi.
In a wide ranging, interview we covered the following things and more:
- Why, despite a previous career managing nightclubs in Soho, Tom still found behaviour management the trickiest part of becoming a teacher
- Why being told “you need to work on your status”, or “you need to get the students to respect you”, is an absolute waste of time
- How Tom agrees that workload and behaviour are the two main reasons teachers leave the profession, and why he feels both can be fixed
- Why Tom’s “Two Schools” theory can go a long way to explaining the workload problem that affects many schools, and what is the responsibility of senior management when it comes to workload?
- What does Tom think makes a bad homework as opposed to a good homework, and what can everyone do about this?
- How would Tom improve meetings in school with one simple, quite brilliant strategy?
- We then move onto the Big One: what are the most practical, effective things teachers can do to improve behaviour in their classrooms?
- Tom feels classroom culture is incredibly important. How does he establish it, and what happens when students break this culture?
- How can classroom teachers promote positive behaviour, as opposed to simply condemning negative behaviour?
- Is consistency the key to behaviour, or should you treat some children differently to others?
- A big issue for me: is it just as dangerous to be inconsistent when focussing on good behaviour as well as bad behaviour?
- How about the teacher who midway through the year thinks they have already lost their class? How do they get them back?
- What can supply teachers, temporary teachers, or even regular teachers covering a single lesson, do to instill the classroom culture that they expect when you don’t have the benefit of long period of time to establish it?
- I throw a few behaviour cliches at Tom to see what his take on them is. Don’t smile until Christmas, anyone?
- What’s the best bit of research and what is the most surprising piece of research Tom has come across, and what one of these has to say about direct instruction.
I am obviously ridiculously biased, but I hope you will agree with me that this interview is essential listening for any teacher, no matter what their age or experience. On a personal level, it made me feel like I was not alone in some of the struggles I have had with my classes over the years, and I now feel a lot more equipped with practical, tried and tested strategies to get behaviour back on track.
If this interview has hooked in any fellow non maths specialists, then I would just like to remind people that over at my Diagnostic Questions website you will find not just maths questions, but also thousands of top-quality, free Science and Computer Science questions, as well as growing numbers in subjects like English and Languages. And just so the maths crew do not feel left out, February 14th 2017, as well as being a day of romance, will also mark the start of the 100 day GCSE Maths Revision Stream at Diagnostic Questions. This will be 100% free, and you can sign up by following this link: https://diagnosticquestions.com/Streams. There will also be two Primary Streams for Key Stage 1 and 2 Maths SATs, and two IB Maths Streams. What better present for your loved one than 2 maths questions a day for 100 days – it truly is the gift that keeps giving.
The DfE ITT Working Party document that Tom mentions can be found here
Project Follow Through can be found here
Thanks so much for listening, and I really hope you enjoy the show!
I am a maths teacher, currently teaching at Thornleigh Salesian College, Bolton, UK. Here are links to some of my work:
Mr Barton Maths Blog
Mr Barton Maths Podcast
Just the Job Podcast