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Reading what Teachers say about Teaching could be the Best Investment of your Free Time

You'll find yourself getting agitated at some of the things you read, and nodding with others, but it could be one of the best investments of precious free time that you ever make

  • Reading what Teachers say about Teaching could be the Best Investment of your Free Time

When I think back to the amount of reading I did about education – or indeed, how much I accessed anything written by educational practitioners – for the first 15 years of my career compared to now, it is a little embarrassing.

Now, I read something that could be directly or indirectly linked to education every day in my free time. It may just be an article that I have seen tweeted out, or it could one of the numerous books that are seemingly published on a daily basis.

I know that some people will already be tutting about work/life balance at this point, so let me try and respond to that first. I like my job. No. I love my job.

I am also interested in how things can be improved in my own life and in the lives of those I work with and for. I do not find it a chore to sit on a sun bed and to read the latest stuff published.

However, this may not be the case for everyone and that is fine; I think criticising and dictating how people should relax does not work.

I consider reading education books to be something that I both need and want to do.

As a leader of a school it is important that I challenge my thinking, and one way I try and to that is to pick up books and articles by people whose philosophy of education I suspect to be different from my own.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m not always correct in that assumption!

Between practitioners

So where do you start? I know I did not read previously because my perception was that all ‘education books’ were written by academics, who could have little to add that would improve my practice.

I am not certain whether that was arrogant or naïve, but it was my excuse.

The biggest change that opened the door to me was the sudden proliferation of practitioner written content. This, alongside the growth in technology which makes access straightforward, was the tipping point for me.

I could pick up a book from someone I knew about and connect with it – because they were doing the same job as me, just a bit better/differently.

When I was approached to write my book (and these articles in fact) it was on the back of having been on, at the time, a unique TV series.

It was not something I ever thought I’d do; my long suffering form tutor and English teacher, Mike Conboy, would vouch for how difficult it was to get me to write more than the minimum.

However, the opportunity for teachers and leaders to become authors seems to have increased, so I would start by finding out whether someone you already like the sound of has had anything published – or even if they blog.

Find the space

I have found myself getting agitated at some of the things I read – on blogs in particular – and nodding along vociferously on other occasions.

This does lead to some rather strange looks on the train ( or sunbed), but I enjoy the challenge of the thinking process that happens as I read.

It is obviously important to remember that not everything we read is necessarily true or will be the panacea for all your ills. Context remains king after all.

However, our ability to make informed choices is so much greater than ever before – and for me, that is the crux of why we must remain a thinking, questioning and challenging profession.

I have improved as a teacher through reading about ‘bar modelling’ for instance, and as a leader thanks to far too many different sources to name.

I know finding the space in a day is difficult, but I honestly believe that I have saved myself time and improved in my job as a result of finding that time to read, which has had a positive knock on effect on the rest of my life.

Oh, and I cannot finish without saying a final ‘thank you’ to Mr Conboy for persevering in getting me to enjoy reading; not least because without your efforts I’d never have seen the words ‘author of The Best Job in the World’ next to my name on Amazon!

Vic Goddard is headteacher at Passmores Academy, as seen on Channel 4’s Educating Essex, and is the author of The Best Job in the World; you can follow him at @vicgoddard

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