Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Praise pours in from fictional characters for my new teacher training book.

The night has ended!
Fans of poorly phrased pedagogic advocacy and unsubstantiated educational research rejoice! After the excitement of the Royal Wedding and the death of Voldemort (check: Google), 2011 brings another pivotal paperback event for everyone's calender. 

My new book, 'Not Quite a Teacher' hits the book stands tomorrow (out in paperback and Kindle: can Kindles be hit? 'streamed', possibly) after a long incubation period in the laboratories of my mind. I wanted to write something that I would have found useful before and during my entry to the profession. Also, although I've enjoyed a lot of decent writing about education, I came across the following problems:

'Peggy; get me a line to the TDA.'
1. Some teacher training books appeared to be aimed at prospective therapists, with their emphasis on 'understanding how the kids (or 'learning participants' were feeling, and what they were trying to communicate with their behaviour. How odd, I thought.
2. Some are structurally quite useful, but suffered from being simultaneously drier than an oven and wetter than Osama's pockets. I mean, I know they're supposed to be informative, but do they have to be so....excuse me, I'm drifting off.
'Apparently the DfE no longer require us,' said Holmes.
3. None of them really conveyed to me the experience of training to be a teacher, at least not in terms of how I would feel, the emotional content of the experience; a process which, I have to say, I can only describe as harrowing (or, as conventional educational idiom would have it. 'a unique learning experience involving a synergistic feedback of life-long learning and reflective practise'. The only reflecting I was doing was staring in the mirror and wondering who the bony-faced desperado was that was staring back.
4. They were about as entertaining as a kick in the charlies.
5. Almost all of them conveyed the impression that teaching was a piece of p*ss. And that in order to do it, one was only required to bone up on vile dogma about personalised learning, learning to learn, inclusion, learning styles, and other ghastly, laboratory-invented Frankenstein's monsters of teaching ideas. I soon found out that these things were very, very far from your first, second or third concern.

'Great Krypton. I thought VAK was real.'
So I wrote the book I wanted to read when I was training. I decided to use a technique that would be human as well as professional; I wrote the book partially as a memoir of my own experiences, interspersed with the advice that my older, wiser self would have given to the fresh-faced apprentice I was. Wise to the fact that I am of little interest except to the people who love me, I kept the memoir sections to the bare minimum, and included them only when it was a relevant experience that conveyed what it's actually like to be in the boiling  saucepan of your first few years. I also used these sections to describe in excruciating detail, as many of the pratfalls I made as possible, if only because the essence of comedy is observing the misfortune of others. Also, I avoided litigation.

'Sorry, no, I'm not him. Yes we are often mistaken.'
I understand that there's a bit of a debate about the authenticity of teacher memoirs these days (and I never thought I'd write those words), so I should say that while everything in the book happened to me, I have changed names, genders, and other details to protect the identity of the innocent as well as the guilty. Unlike other, anonymous educational writers (or ones who make a feeble attempt to be so), my name is out in the open; I have no secret identity to hide behind. In that respect, I'm a bit like Tony Stark. And in no other way, alas.

'Briliiant...is...is it too late to amend the Education Bill?'
I wouldn't want anyone to say, 'Aha! It's not really like that!' Believe me; it really is like that. And I think, after running the behaviour forum for a few years, that I got off relatively lightly. At least I had a few years working in nightclubs in Soho before I went into teaching, and I was used to belligerence and indifference. I truly pity those who enter teaching straight from University, especially in rougher schools. Still, in a few years time when we're all being trained in Tescos, it won't matter, I suppose.

'Curses! He has learned how to master us!'
I've tried to make it funny; I damn well made sure it was relevant. I went over and over it to include everything I needed to know that I didn't get from the training process. There's only so much that a teaching professional can learn from a book, any book, so I wanted to make sure that this one had everything I could put in, and still be useful. I even penned a few cartoons for it, because I know that certainly pause over such things when I flick through a book in the shop.

That's a direct order from the big guy.
It's not a book for educational philosophers (although it has a little of that) or armchair pundits (although to be fair, I never resist the urge to have a crack).

It's a book for teachers, about teaching. I hope some people find it useful.

And I like the cover.

5 comments:

  1. Have placed my order! I'm not quite a not quite a teacher, but some days it feels like it, and your blog advice is always really helpful. Hope the sales go well.

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  2. Placed my order as well!

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  3. @ Fran and Bryn

    Thanks, that means a lot. With the proceeds from my first book, I built another wing on my secret island lair :)

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  4. Waterstone's in the West End of Edinburgh had two copies yesterday - now down to one as I bought one. Great stuff, Tom. I've been teaching 20 years but we can all stand to be reminded of the basics: let's face it, we start all over again each session with our new classes. Looks to be full of sensible and sane advice - only a quick browse so far, but I appreciate (as ever) your comments on inclusion.

    Who knows, this could even be a book to challenge Michael Marland's "The Craft of the Classroom", which was my bible back in the day. High praise!

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  5. Brilliant, MT, thanks so much. And well done you for going into an actual, three-dimensional book shop and supporting the industry. The Waterstones in Piccadilly is one of my favourite places in the world.

    Best wishes.

    Tom

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