A bbc Interview with Rob Smith

One of our final interviews is with creator of Literacy Shed, co-founder of #PrimaryRocks and all-round nice bloke*, Rob Smith. 

*I have to say that, he lives near me and once threatened to run me over (he was joking, hopefully). 

What made you become a teacher?

I was 19 - I had spent three years doing my two years of A levels. I was playing rugby in the superleague on the fringes of the first team squad.  I had been selected to play for Great Britain under 19's when my rugby coach at Sixth form told me that I would get an automatic A* in PE practical as I had represented my country.  (Against Australia, we got beat and I received a red card but that is for another time.)   So there I was with A Levels in PE, English Lit, and Sociology.  Thinking I would go and work as a secondary school rugby coach/PE teacher when 'Waz' my PE lecturer suggested primary teaching instead.  I think it was the variety of the subjects that inspired me - that and the promise by other lecturers that I would rise rapidly to the dizzying heights of headship rapidly being a man in primary with a PE specialism.  I was sold and set off to Northampton to study for my BA Primary Education (PE specialism) with QTS....

You lost at Rugby against the Australians, surely you are perfect for England´s First-team.

What is your favourite part of the job?

My favourite part of being a teacher was always seeing that look of accomplishment on a child's face. Especially the child who found it difficult often. When that child accomplished something and was pleased as punch with it then that was when I felt I was doing something worthwhile.

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

The thing that I am most proud of is getting a publishing deal with Bloomsbury and writing my first book with my partner Kath, we are excited about it coming out in January.

Sounds exciting!

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

I think the most frustrating thing at the moment for many teachers is the pressure to perform.  I do not think this happens in all schools however it is happening in some.  Teachers are given aspirational targets to meet and then fail to pass PM because the aspirations were not met.

There are some schools where books are being graded via book scrutinies and schools were observations are still formally graded.  This for me is frustrating as it is uneccessary.

What songs would be on your driving to work playlist?

Razorlight - Golden Touch, Fleetwood Mac - Everywhere and Oasis - Masterplan

Fan of The Highwayman, I assume.

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

I have been thinking about this one today.  I was teaching a lesson using the opening to The Nowhere Emporium and we were discussing what The Nowhere Emporium is. We got to the fact it was a shop with lots of departments - but why 'Nowhere?'   

One child suggested it is a shop with no beginning or end.  It just goes on and on and on and on and on....
"Yeah like Ikea!" Shouted his pal.


It also has lots of names in a strange language...

What is your guilty pleasure?

Romantic Comedies - I pretty much know Notting Hill word for word. I am the one who watches The Holiday every Christmas. As Good as it Gets is up there with my favourites.  This week I have watched The Perks of Being a Wall Flower and Adventureland already.

A secret romantic. That´s worth remembering. You remind me of a young Hugh Grant too.

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

A food critic - I continuously plan to blog about food and drink but I do not have the time.  Don't get me wrong, I still manage to eat and drink, often decadently, however I never manage to do the write up!

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

I have an eclectic mix of passions - I have already mentioned Rugby and food.  I collect whisky and cognac with over 50 bottles currently on the tasting shelf some people would call that a passion. I have a penchant for animations as you would guess and a passion for sharing how to use these to improve learning for children.

No surprises, there.

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

This is the reason I became a Primary School teacher was so that I didn't have to choose, but I think I would pick History - particularly British history.  I love Medieval British history and also The Industrial Revolution.

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

This is a hard one.  Do I say the teacher?  Cliche?! But that is the most effective resource.  In the hands of a poor teacher no tool can be effective.  It is about how the tools are used to enhance the learning that is important.  I love a visualiser but, if they are only ever used to show a piece of good work at the end of the lesson then it would be a waste of money.

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

Being flexible.  Respecting the children and giving them responsibility for their own actions.  There were no problems with someone hanging their coat on someone else's peg because like adults they entered in the morning and found an empty peg.  We didn't need to line up and walk into the classroom as they knew what was expected of them as they came in, walk in sensibly and follow the instructions written on the whiteboard whatever they may be. I feel sometimes we give children too much structure and they are not ready for life when the structure is removed. If they need a pen, much easier if they know where the new pens are and they can get up and get one rather than disrupting others learning to ask the teacher for one.  High expectations in a flexible framework for me is essential.  I visit infant schools to be shown around by the Year 2 children, mature and sensible oldest children in the school oft treated like babies in a primary school.

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

4 people is tricky but I have generally had a plan for this for a very long time.  1.  Oscar Wilde - I would like to see what he was like I know he liked to party.  2.  If Oscar Wilde is coming back from the dead then I would have to invite Stephen Fry too, I love him, he should be in my guilty pleasures section really too.  3.  Oliver Reed - as a young man, hell-raiser.   4. If we have the power to invite anyone living or dead then I would do anything to spend one more dinner with Doris, my Nana.  I think she would have a laugh in this company. Especially if the whisky was flowing.

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

Best advice - have high expectations of all students regardless of ability and or environmental issues and this doesn't mean expect them all to work at the same level but expect them all to work to the best of their abilities.

Worst advice - Reduce teacher talk to the bare minimum and allow children to learn for themselves.

Final Question: What drives you as a teacher?

This is a tricky question for me as I am no longer a 'teacher' by traditional definitions.  The thing that drove me when I was full time in class were those moments when a child achieved something.  It was a win!  Now when I go around the world teaching I generally see children for half a day and still celebrate those wins they are just smaller.    But the thing that drives me now is the ability to influence the education of children on a wider scale.  I had a small influence as a school class teacher, I had a larger influence as a school manager and now I have a far wider influence in both The UK and around the world.  This drives me - making English teaching better for children and teachers everywhere.

If you could choose one person who you´d love to have the bbc interview treatment, who would it be and why?

Richard Farrow (@farrowmr)

He has some really interesting views.




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