Jim Smith was booked into our school by a Senior Teacher, Natalie Shaw. Another colleague (@cgasiorek) enjoyed participating in one of Jim Smith’s lazy teaching sessions last year. I read his book The Lazy Teacher over the summer. Packed full of good tips to lighten your workflow by engaging your teaching mind. Jim brings lots of classroom tricks to the table, not all new whizz-bangers, but all focused on putting pupil energy at the centre of learning. The tricks are clever ways of awakening the minds in the room. Find the pedagogy – the methods – that suit a particular bunch of learners and use them. I do not have his slides to reference from the whistle-stop tour of his content, but I really liked the ASDA reference he made, whereby you work out what you want the pupils to be doing before you work out what you – the teacher – are going to do. Content comes last, getting broken into the activities you have decided are going to work for that class at that time. Seems simple but it’s easy to forget as we drive hard through SOWs and POSs like they are bad weather.
We started with firework warnings: do not do the firework planning because the pupils won’t go off with a whizz, bang and crackle in a shower of coloured light. I thought of a colleague who was disappointed about a CSI style lesson he had spent all weekend prepping only to be met with a lesson that fell short of his expectations. I thought of my own attempts to build SOLO taxonomy into my lessons only to be left wondering why the pupils were not singing it’s praises. I thought lazy teaching has a got a point.
Other than Jim’s energy, I liked a bingo idea he mentioned toward the end. Give pupils a bingo sheet where they match different pedagogies – learning/thinking games/activities/stimulants – and call house when they get them all matched. What a neat trick for monitoring teaching and learning without the paperwork. Could there be a better tour of the school? A thumbnail sketch of what a pupil spends their time doing in lessons.
I’m not sure I liked all that Jim said. He talked about making yourself better than your colleagues with the aim of being the one teacher all those pupils remembered in years to come. If I understood this correctly, it’s not for me. I am a fan of variety in a school, for example, I don’t want all teachers using the same technology in every lesson. I am not bothered if some teachers never want to use it. We are all different and *vive la difference*.
Teachers seemed impressed with Jim’s INSET. Inspired. They saw the benefits of lazy teaching. [NB: it was fast and furious; it was twilight, after school on the first day back after half term]. However, I heard a couple of mentions of it making people *feel* like they were not good enough. Jim did not say anything of the sort – the opposite in fact. Nevertheless, take a very busy teacher working very hard and show them something that makes them feel like what they’re doing is not enough, and you’ve got a situation you have to handle – I know this all too well from delivering ICT INSET over the years. But the teachers I work with are great people! The effort and energy they have put into the Frog training we have done this year is immense. I wonder what everyone will make of lazy teaching. I wonder if some of the ideas will jump into tomorrow’s lessons or bleed into the daily fabric.
It is a leap of faith to start incorporating other peoples ideas into your workflow. You feel like you’re falling into the wilderness from your familiar routine. I am inspired by many teachers whose work I read about on their blogs. This takes time; I like to take ownership of a technique before I adopt it. But maybe this is me being too slow? I wrote this blogpost because Mark Anderson nudged me to. Maybe we need to find a way of nudging each other.