Book: Becoming a Teacher: Knowledge, Skills and Issues

My teacher training classes begin at 10 am this morning, so I spent the weekend reading the first book on the reading list: Becoming a Teacher (5th ed.) by Colin Marsh.

Becoming a Teacher: Knowledge, Skills and Issues
One of the key texts in my teacher training

Stylistically, it’s like drinking honey: viscous and sweet. An excellent, comprehensive starting point for all new teachers.
497 pages, ★★★★★

Becoming a Teacher (5th ed.) covers every aspect of education imaginable. There’s half a page on the ideal temperature of the classroom, and 1½ pages on the ideal colour for the classroom walls. There’s several pages on how the ambience of the classroom doesn’t influence the students’ grades, but does influence the students’ behaviour and happiness, to all of which, scientific studies are cited. Abundant references attribute published, peer-reviewed papers to every facet of classroom management, including teaching styles, curriculum content, examination methods, and modes of school governance. Not one aspect of education is left to opinion. The whole book is written in lucid prose with no interrupting fact-boxes or other distractions—tables and figures are inset, though, where they’re necessary.

Two facts stand out. First, the 2 × 10 strategy (Smith & Lambert, 2008), in which teachers engage problem students in a 2-minute conversation for 10 consecutive school days, has been proven an effective way to improve students’ wellbeing (and their manners in class). Second, you can use a the results of an innocuous quiz to create a sociogram (which is basically a character map), to create visualise friendship networks in the classroom. The resulting data can be used to foster social cohesion, improve group work, assist seating arrangements, and even break up gangs.

I was most surprised to learn how child psychology underpins basically everything that teachers do:

  • Kohlberg’s 3 stages of moral development
  • Erikson’s 5+3 childhood stages
  • Vygosky’s 4 stages of the development of thought
  • Piaget’s 4 stages of growth, and 2 stages of morality
  • Borich & Tombari’s 2 types of student motivation
  • Bloom’s taxonomy
  • Gardner’s multiple intelligences
  • …and, of course, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Tests, curricula and teaching styles are engineered to cater to every stage that your students might be in. Teaching is clearly a science—yet I used to think it was an art!

I made seven pages of notes while reading this book (I usually make one or two) so there’s a lot to take in: don’t talk too much… you don’t need to shout… give students 5 seconds to answer questions… there are 3 types of test… be fair to all students… don’t just call on boys to answer questions… there’s much more. My internship in April will help me put this wealth of theory into practice.

Becoming a Teacher (5th ed.) is an excellent starting point for teachers-in-training. I loved reading this book. ★★★★★

7 thoughts on “Book: Becoming a Teacher: Knowledge, Skills and Issues

  1. I’m not doubting that this book is a good resource for teachers, but its crazy the amount of things they expect teachers to keep in mind. I took the first year of a Primary Education and how you’re expected to think about the temperature, the colour of the walls, the look of the classroom, the sound of your voice… all that on top of ensuring each child gets a varied education that is best suited to them so they’ll get expected test scores and are happy and healthy and……. Its way too much.

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    1. There’s a lot of theory to learn at the start, but like any discipline, with enough experience, it one day becomes completely natural to you and you no longer are consciously aware of the theory behind what you’re doing. You’re just doing it!

      Do professional snooker players use mnemonics to remember the order of coloured balls that need I be pocketed? No! It becomes natural.

      Why did you only do one year of teacher training?

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      1. I got quite good grades on my essays, but when it came to placement, I didn’t have enough confidence to keep the children concentrating. At least, I couldn’t do it up to the standard that my university expected (even though we’d had no previous experience on the course and it was my first time teaching). My university has quite high standards, I think… I know at least 3/4 people who have left the course within my social group due to the same reasons. I just sort of realised that I should go for something I’d enjoy rather than something I thought would be a good job to do. I sort of enjoyed placement, but (naturally) you have to be completely concentrated on the development of the children, to a point where I felt that I wasn’t expanding my own knowledge. I don’t feel like I have enough knowledge and experience to teach someone else, as I’m by no means the smartest person. I’d need to ensure I focused on my own learning before I could think of others.

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