#038 Amir Arezoo: Lean maths departments, deep work, schemes of work

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On this episode of the Mr Barton Maths Podcast, I spoke to Amir Arezoo.

Amir is an experienced maths teacher, someone who has been head of maths in several schools, and who is now Vice Principal for Raising Achievement at Horizon Community College in Barnsley. I have wanted to get Amir on the show for a while. Listeners have requested more interviews with experienced and successful teachers, so they can learn from their habits, processes and past mistakes. I am a keen follower of Amir’s blogs – The Lean Department and At The Edge of Chaos – and like me he is interested in taking research findings and looking for practical ways to apply them to his work as both a teacher and a leader.

So, in a wide-ranging interview, we covered the following and more:

  • Amir’s favourite number leads to a discussion on the importance of distinguishing pattern recognition and retrieval
  • Amir describes a lesson from his passed that was a disaster – his words, not mine – and what he learned from it
  • Then we turn our attention to Amir’s lesson planning process and learn exactly what his lessons look like and why he makes those decisions.
  • Then it is time to learn from Amir’s experiences of running maths departments. We cover lots of fascinating areas, such as running a lean department, what do departmental meetings look like, and how do you decide which classes to give to which teachers?
  • Next we move on to one of my favourite books of the last year – Deep Work by Cal Newport. We discuss how we can apply the key principles to the lives of teachers and students.
  • Then we look at Amir’s schemes of work, discussing the essential features, and what his homeworks and assessments look like
  • Finally Amir shares some recommendations and answers the question: what does he wish he knew when he first started teaching that he knows now.

I loved talking to Amir. He is someone who regularly evaluates what he does, and asks whether it has worked or not, and what he can change to make it more effective. He is a lifelong learner, and I certainly learned lots from talking to him I particularly enjoyed discussing the challenges and practicalities of running a department, and also the section about Deep Work. I reflect on both of these, and a bit more, in my Takeaway at the end of the interview, so try to stick around for that if possible.

Just a quick announcement – and by announcement, I most certainly mean “plug” – to say that my book “How I wish I’d taught maths” is available to buy. I have tried to distill all the lessons I have learned from guests like Amir, Dylan Wiliam, Kris Boulton, Greg Ashman, the Bjorks, Dani Quinn, and many more – over 100 hours of interviews, in fact – into an accessible, practical guide. If you have snapped it up – and I am so grateful that so many of you have – and you enjoy it, then please leave a quick review on Amazon. I am particularly interested in which areas of the book you found most interesting and useful. Thank you.

On Twitter, Amir is @WorkEdgeChaos
His blogs are: theleandepartment.wordpress.com and mrarezoo.wordpress.com
Links to the books Amir recommends teachers read can be found here, along with the recommendations of all my other guests.

Amir Arezoo’s Big 3
2. Teaching for Mastery – Mark McCourt blog series – Part 1
3. What does this look like in the classroom?

My usual plugs:

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

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