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The Guardian Teacher Network is a section of the Guardian's website dedicated to providing news, comment and resources for teachers. Most of our blogs are written for teachers by teachers, and experts in the world of education.
In school fields and communities, pupils are learning about the fragility of nature – and restoring depleted environments
After the long slog of winter, pupils at Evelyn Community primary school in Merseyside are getting outside with a mission in mind: to count and record the number of different bird species in the school grounds. The challenge is part of the Big School’s Bird Watch, an event which last year involved 73,000 school children and their teachers.
But the children have been taking an active interest in the wildlife at their school for a while. Since creating a garden in an unused corner of their field more than two years ago, the pupils have attracted a variety of birds. They’ve planted wildflower seeds, created a vegetable plot, made bird nests, and learned about biodiversity. The school has a wicker bird hide and has bought binoculars to encourage bird spotting all year round.
I’ve spent more than a decade working in primary schools in a deprived area of the UK. Some of the children we teach come from families living on the breadline, and they often miss out on things that some of us might take for granted. I’ve seen a pupil eat five packed lunches provided for free by the school because he was so hungry, and families scrape together handfuls of coppers and loose change to pay for school trips. In winter, I’ve taken a child to the supermarket to buy them a coat and shoes.
North Lanarkshire proposal comes as teachers report seeing more malnourished pupils
A Scottish council plans to provide free meals to children who need them 365 days a year, in a scheme that will be the first of its kind in the UK if approved at a council meeting next Tuesday.
Labour-controlled North Lanarkshire council will pilot the “Food 365” programme in Coatbridge during the Easter break, with the expectation of expanding it to cover the whole of the council area in time for the summer holidays.
My world was rocked at the age of 12 – but my extraordinary English teacher helped me through it. Now we’re reconnecting
I was 12 years old, and my mum had just died from cancer. It was horrific to watch that happen to someone. My dad had an alcohol problem that mum had been managing all these years – suddenly he had a good reason to drink, and no one to stop him any more. He hit the bottle hard.
I went from being quite a high achieving student to being in the bottom quarter for English. But among all this, there was my English teacher, Miss Ward, who was so supportive. She wasn’t trained in mental health: she just saw someone who was distressed and unhappy, but who also had potential. She changed my world.
It’s no secret that arts subjects are increasingly being deprioritised in many schools, and that there’s a fall in the number of pupils taking arts subjects at GCSE. Yet the arts matter, not only to individual learning but to the UK as a whole: the creative industries currently contribute £84.1bn a year to the economy.
Enthusiasm for art should really start at primary school – by the time students reach year seven, attitudes about what matters in education will have already been established. The national curriculum for art and design is sparse and leaves a lot open to interpretation, meaning that provision varies greatly between schools. With pressures on pupil progress for reading, writing and maths, it’s not uncommon for a whole term to pass without one art lesson.
In an effort to improve my teaching practice, I’ve made some pretty unattainable teaching resolutions in the past. I’ve told myself I’ll conquer all behaviour management issues; work-life balance will be my new middle name; and the marking pile will be seamlessly controlled. But such resolutions are usually made during the holidays, and it doesn’t take long for them to dissipate once I’ve returned to the classroom.
Most teachers are passionate about what they do. But research suggests that after the first few years of teaching they can begin to stagnate in their practice. It’s easy for frustrations about making the same mistakes to creep in, and we often look for quick fixes. As Dylan William suggests: “Teachers are like magpies. They love picking up shiny little ideas from one classroom; taking it back to their classroom; trying it once, and then moving on to the next shiny idea.”
Becoming a supply teacher initially seemed to make sense. I liked the idea of being in different classrooms while avoiding bureaucracy and the excessive workload driving so many out of the profession. I hoped to be able to balance teaching with other work in the arts. But the reality has left me struggling with long periods of unemployment, job insecurity and low pay.
There is a wealth of psychology research that can help teachers to improve how they work with students, but academic studies of this kind aren’t always easy to access or translate into the realities of classroom practice. This series seeks to redress that by taking a selection of studies and making sense of the important information for teachers, as we all seek to answer the question: how can we help our students do better at school? This time, we consider a well-known study looking at self-control.
If I offered a child a marshmallow and told them that if they could refrain from eating it for 15 minutes they would get two marshmallows instead, would they be able to do it? In the early 1970s, Stanford researcher Walter Mischel and colleagues put the challenge to 92 children aged three to five, and the follow-up studies and results 20 years later have had a significant impact on how we view self-control.