A bbc Interview with @smithsmm

Welcome to the second ever bbcTeaching interview. We´ll be discussing 1950s B-movies, eclectic music, leadership and teaching with Head Teacher and picture book aficionado, Simon Smith. 

Simon Smith is the Principal of East Whitby Academy. He is a recognised Picture book expert and the go-to guy for book recommendations. Find out more about Simon´s views on leadership and teaching on his blog: https://smithsmm.wordpress.com/. Simon will be leading workshops at Lead Learn Lancs 2017 https://leadlearnlancs.wordpress.com/ and Reading Rocks 2017. 

What made you want to become a teacher?


- Genuinely didn't know what to do. Did a Psychology degree then had a year dossing about, traveling, did some charity work in Romania setting up a radio station, and creating a garden for an orphanage, came back with an idea to be an Educational Psychologist. Did voluntary work in a special needs school in Nottingham and got hooked, that made up my mind that education and teaching was for me so applied for a PGCE and the rest is history.
Never really looked towards headship that just crept up on me and was a bit of a surprise. Just loved teaching. Most of my career has been in challenging schools around Middlesbrough.

What is your favourite part of the job?

         - The children, the brilliance of young people they amaze me everyday. The job is a constant joy regardless of the challenges. I try to teach at least two days a week. I'm the the first port of call if we need supply.
The bit in the class when a child suddenly gets it is a special thing to see. I suppose the classroom is the favourite bit and always will be. I'm a headTEACHER.


What has been best thing you have done at work this year?

- In terms of people probably manage the budget so we don't have any redundancies. However the bits that stick in the mind are the awe and wonder moments, getting children singing on a real stage, finding a lobster in a rockpool, ghost stories at midnight on a camping trip, children saying the love algebra after you've taught it to them and always without fail sharing stories and books with children.
I do that everyday.


What is the most frustrating thing about teaching at the moment?

          - As a head the only answer is punitive accountability. The huge amount of pressure bearing down on schools is a massive weight. I do my level best to ensure that my staff can just get on and teach. The mess that is statutory assessment is frustrating for a host of reasons. My biggest issue is that it does not support the pupils in their learning journey. I have huge issues with the writing ITAF I think it has damaged writing not enhanced it as very much an English specialist this makes me quite angry. I am not however anti- SATs or testing but assessment as it currently has been pretty poorly thought through especially the idea of progress from one measure to another.


What songs would be on your driving to work playlist?

          - Its a 40 minute drive everyday so almost time for a whole album. It's a real mix of music from stuff that I loved as a teenager to stuff I love now. All-sorts really but some things are regulars. Underworld Dontdubnobasswithmyheadman, Pixies Doolittle, The Cure always the Cure, really like the National, Bright Eyes, Eels, and then my grebo youth with Pop Will Eat itself, the Wonderstuff, Neds Atomic Dustbin and Carter. Not forgetting the Levellers and New Model Army.
Occassionally like a bit of prog rock too not sure if that makes me a progressive though.


I think Rick Wakeman would be a Trad actually.


What is the funniest thing a child has ever said/written in your class?

          - Fun? we don't have FUN. The one that made me cry was when my TA kept saying orgasm rather than organism. I had to leave the class at that one. (maybe that shouldn't be included.
Most things written often include spelling errors and swear words. Most upsetting was being called Santa by a reception child. She looked at me with such a sparkle in her eyes.

I´m not sure I can blame her. The flowing white beard and the warm twinkly eyes, you can see where she´s coming from.


What is your guilty pleasure?

- I have a real thing for 1950's B movies and also like a cracking film musical. However I think my real guilty pleasure is children's picture books. I spend way too much money on them. I claim they're for work but the really aren't.


I can just see you dressed as a nun, reading a picture book whilst running away from The Blob (not the Govian Blob).


If you weren´t a teacher, what would you be and why?

- Obviously International Spy/ Rock God. Actually I'd love to own a quirky little bookshop. Books would be a passion that would be there regardless. Librarian also appeals, are you spotting a theme?
Done all-sorts in the past and really I can't imagine doing another job than teaching.


You are already a convincing Santa, so the under-cover thing will come easy. As long as all your assignments are in Lapland.


What are you passionate about (teaching-related or not)?

- Completely believe in the power of Reading and great books to make the difference. Getting children reading is the most important thing we do in primary schools.
I think it's vital that teachers know books that way they can truly inspire the children in their class. I wish every school could afford a librarian, a committed professional who knows books in every school. Also completely and passionately believe in teachers and teaching. Completely love the job and think there is no better job. I have always felt that way since I got hooked. Even when I stepped away I still believed in teaching, sometimes schools and systems get in the way of actual teaching. - The other thing is family. It's so important you don't take it for granted. It equally deserves the energy you put into the job. My family are wonderfully tolerant of me I don't always get the balance right.

If you had to pick one subject/topic to teach on a loop forever, what would it be?

- I'd probably just sit in a corner reading stories to children. Sharing brilliant amazing books. Couldn't do without that bit.

What is the most effective resource/technology/app you use in the classroom?

- Without beginning to sound like a stuck record but brilliant books and knowing how to use them is in my opinion the best resource. iMovie trailer has been great in getting children to show understanding of picturebooks. They have to dig to the core of the story.


What is the most effective routine/method/system you use in the classroom?

- Effective behaviour systems make the difference in the classroom. As a head having systems that support teachers in doing their job and then backing them up is key. Consistency of expectation equally vital.


If you had to pick 4 people (Twitter or otherwise) to invite to a dinner party who would it be and why?

- Twitter wise I think I've already attended that one (, , , ). It was a corker. Hazelnut Liquor and good whisky flowed. We solved education that night. Sadly by the morning we couldn't remember how.



- Was followed by the best hangover breakfast ever:



I expect a re-run after Lead Learn Lancs. 


What is the best and worst advice you have been given as a teacher?

- Best advice is 'teach as if no one is there.' Just get on and do the job.
Worst advice anything to do with stopwatches and the literacy and numeracy hour. Forgot about learning and watched the clock to move on. Nonsense. Also quite a lot of things to do with coloured pens and marking.

Final Question: What drives you as a teacher?


- Children everyday they make the job worthwhile. That is what makes me get up in the morning
.
If you could choose one person who you´d love to have the bbc interview treatment, who would it be and why?

- Mat Tobin (@mat_at_brookes) just because he is an absolute star. Dame Alison Peacock would be interesting if you could get her. I´d also like to hear from Andrew Old, if he would take part.

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