What I learned from my worst lesson


One of the wonderful things about working in the lifelong learning sector is meeting people for whom education is a late-arrived gift.  Some people embrace it and others bring memories of their very worst experiences of the classroom.

My first encounter with an inclusive classroom came when I returned to FE many years ago after working in an international commercial organisation in their training department.  My children were small and I started teaching ICT to 16+ year olds in evening classes.

All was well until I received a letter from the supporting learning department of my college to inform me that my class would consist of a couple of students with additional learning needs, including one who had no hands.

(The point to consider is that this was an ICT class and students were expected to achieve a Level 2 in Computer Literacy and Information Technology (CLAIT) in 30 hours (3 hours...

The Footballers took it really badly

During late summer I worked with an organisation who provide anti-racism talks to schools around the country.

Trainers are from (mostly) a football background, whether high profile players or coaches.  It was such an interesting day with them, because the reasons for the need of classroom strategies became clear.

In the world of high discipline training schedules during a football career, followed by after-dinner speaking engagements, and perhaps an element of sycophantic followers, you have a captive audience.  Nobody thinks you are DOING this talk to them – far from it!  Many will have paid good money for the privilege of being in the same room.

So with that background, nothing can prepare you for a class of young teenagers.

In their sessions at schools, the trainers were finding it difficult to maintain ‘control’ of difficult (low level) behaviour.

“They don’t listen to what we say” was part of the problem, “I get really...

You’re late, why should we wait?

You’re late, we’ll wait?   In my beloved FE sector, there are teachers/lecturers who fall into two parties - the “do’s” and “do nots” - when it comes to starting class on time.

If a timetable states that a class starts at 9am, at 2.30pm or at 6.30pm, that is the time that the class starts.  Yes?

In FE we pride ourselves on being the last bastion of defence before real life sets in for learners who’d like to do well in their chosen career.  We also have adult learners who are retraining, upskilling or just plain and simply enjoying learning something new.

But a class start time is a class start time.  So why the dilemma?

I was recently interviewed for a radio discussion about lateness and timekeeping generally, in the education sense.   The debate ensued because Hampshire County Council had...

Sometimes it doesn’t work

If your classroom behaviour management isn’t working, and the behaviour in class is stopping learning, don’t give up.  Too often I hear people say “I tried that, it didn’t work” or “I’m never doing that again”.


But let’s face it, not every single one of your techniques will work for each of your students.  There are various tactics to be played out for different scenarios.  If you really are of the belief that there’s nothing else you can do with THAT class, you should get your coat and go.


Assuming that you’re willing to start each new class as a clean slate, forgetting previous misdemeanours, I recommend digging deep into your behaviour toolkit and looking for a separate approach.


It might be a strategy that you’ve used many years ago but now have put to one side.  Or it could be that you’ve had a recommendation but haven’t yet engaged with the idea,...

5 Tips to Get Going in The New Year

I don’t know about you, but I really love this time of year.  No, not because it’s winter, not because everyone’s away from work for a break, and actually not because there’s so much lovely food around!

The reason I love this time of year is because of the opportunity for a new start. You could be forgiven for not wanting to go back to work, to keep the routines at bay and enjoy the feeling of being rested.  And yes, I agree with all that.

But having time ‘off’ is such a brilliant excuse to reflect (for a short time) and persuade yourself to plan ahead for a new and improved you.   Don’t you find?

If you’re not sure how to get going, here are my 5 tips which might help:

1. Write an action plan for your personal life or professional practice:

- What I am going to stop doing

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