Why I read it
I read the first Education Exposed book by Sam Strickland, and it resonated with me for being sensible, considered, and full of wisdom and integrity. I reflected on it here. When I heard there was a sequel, I was pleased – but would it be Terminator 2 or Speed 2?
Well, it’s more of the same first-rate stuff from Strickland. The chapters of the two books are quite similar, and at first you could be mistaken for assuming that familiar ground is being covered. However, while values and ethos were clearly conveyed in the first book, the second builds on those, with even more detail and examples, and the same forthright views without the waffle that make Sam’s style so compelling.
Regarding the greater depth, for instance, in the theory chapter, he covers pedagogical models in detail, with examples and strategies; in the curriculum tools chapter, a variety of methods are discussed, e.g. knowledge organisers, retrieval practice.
1. Teacher subject knowledge – the growing movement for teacher subject knowledge, development, and curriculum being at the heart of what we do is gathering apace, and what a time to be involved in teaching! Sam discusses the importance of teachers being treated like experts, but what I most enjoyed was him referring to subject departments as ‘communities’ who should be trusted to make decisions about their curriculum, and given every opportunity to learn and collaborate.
2. Poor behaviour is kryptonite –Sam has a pragmatic approach to behaviour in schools – cultures of high expectations don’t exist to be punitive towards children, but because having the right behaviour culture is ‘critical to the overall success of your curriculum’. Every aspect of teacher development, wellbeing, student progress (and many others) are undone in an instant if the behavioural culture within the school isn’t right. Kryptonite is the correct term. This is a must-read chapter for leaders regarding how and why to create the right culture.
3. Behaviour strategies for teachers – for teachers, Sam offers advice about cultivating excellent behaviour in the classroom. He advises teachers to think carefully about what their expectations are, then to define routines and rules, and then how to calmly deal with infractions. There are plenty of strategies and tools in this chapter – very empowering.
4. Curriculum and pedagogical tools – this sequel has more Teaching and Learning strategies for teachers and leaders regarding how they can plan and deliver the curriculum. Despite being just over 90 pages in length, it’s impressive how much is packed into the book; if you’re a middle or senior leader thinking about your curriculum or whole-school teaching and learning, Sam’s chapters are a great starting point to prompt some precise reflections, before you delve further. For example, his heading on retrieval practice is engaging, and may be the trigger for you to read Kate Jones’ excellent book on the subject.
‘Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance’
In the first book, I liked ‘We permit what we promote, and we promote what we permit’, so I was hopeful for another catchy phrase to commit to my own practice in the sequel.
The quote relates to the long-term planning we need to engage in for our curriculum. We aren’t just teaching half-term to half-term, but over 5 to 7 years. Sam advocates moving away from the tired habits of short-term planning, or preparing for examinations only, and instead promotes careful thought about the way we shape and sequence the curriculum.
While I have a keen interest in curriculum and behaviour, the leadership chapter at the end was what I really stumped up my cash for. Sam proposes leadership that is reflective, based on your specific school context, and puts staff development and support at the heart of what we do. One of his concluding thoughts is that leaders should ‘never lose sight of what it is to be a full time class teacher’. I’ve tried to keep this in my mind over the years, but once I read this I actually printed out a teacher’s timetable, blanked out the name, and now keep it in my office. The visual reminder of how teachers navigate their day with their classes, let alone with other things our leadership team might ask them to do, is humbling and powerful.
Read this if…
You are interested in the development of your school, particularly regarding curriculum, culture, behaviour, and staff development
You want a concise read that will stoke your enthusiasm and prompt you to reflect on your own values and ideas, in whichever role you hold