A bbc Interview with Beth Bennett

Today´s interview is with Beth Bennett @f33lthesun. Tell us a bit about yourself...

A Scot in Yorkshire (via 13 years in that there London)
I trained in Glasgow, my first teaching practice was in the Gorbals and after graduating I moved to London to teach. I have taught from Nursery up to Year 6 and even done a bit of caretaking when needed.
I have just completed my 30th year of teaching and my 19th as Deputy Head. I have also been SENCo alongside this for the past 6 years and it is this path I have chosen to follow in my next move, to Parklands (not sure if anyone knows anything about this particular school) in September.

Outside of teaching, I love football, golf, the sea, Greek Islands, and BOOKS.

I teach children.

I guess that´s what we all aspire to do, sometimes things get in the way.

What made you become a teacher?

         - It is in my genes. Both my parents were teachers.
My mum was a primary teacher and she taught me in my final year of primary (P7 in Scotland) and my dad was a PE teacher at my high school. He always treated me the worst on cross country and nearly took my knee out in a teachers vs pupils hockey match!
Seriously though, I always wanted to make a difference, even just to one child/family, and education is the best way to do that.
My dad did try to talk me out of it but here I am, 30 years later...

I wonder how many teachers are the children of teachers. You´d think they would put us off, but it´s obviously an attractive job

What is your favourite part of the job?

- My favourite part of teaching is seeing the children's faces light up when something clicks for them and they have their light-bulb moments and also...
My two favourite parts of the job are as above and seeing the effort the children put into trying to achieve and the pride they get when they do it. I also love it when...
My three favourite parts of the job are as above and when we get provision right for children with special educational needs, then sending them off at the end of year six wonderful, friendly, confident young people.

What has been best thing you have done at work this year?
          - This is a difficult one as so much has happened but I think in terms of impact on the children, I have turned the teacher who went into Year 6 in September into a reader. I bought her books, she read them, shared them with her class and this in turn has inspired the children to be more enthused with reading (most were not) and wanting to know what was next. Also, and this isn't a cheat, it is intrinsically linked - made every teacher read every day in every class.
For me personally, the best thing I did was turn up for an interview in Leeds on a rainy Wednesday morning in May.

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

         - Knew this one was coming!
So, should I pick funding predictions and staff stress about job security or assessment or LA requests for progress predictions or traded services from LA departments or review days by LA as a solution to worries about SATs results??? Decisions, decisions, decisions...
Ok, Assessment it is ...both statutory and non statutory. Interim Frameworks for Y2 and Y6 for two years running and very late announcements in the first year. Trying to support those key staff so they can get on with teaching is difficult. More changes on the way for next year too. Oh and how many codes do we need to have for end of key stage?
Levels that are not levels any more and staff wanting to know what expected looks like at the end of each term/year throughout school. You speak to local schools and they all have different ideas, some with 6 point systems, some with 18!!! Some saying expected is based on what they have covered so far, others on what they have achieved against the whole years objectives.
I won't go on about progress, but I keep fighting the good fight about progress being in the books and talking to the children and the fact that it cannot be predicted!
My final point on assessment is this...how can we make SEND children feel like the successes they most certainly are with language like "has not met the expected standard" following them through school like that truck in Duel?

So all of the above.

What songs would be on your driving to work playlist?

- I was listening to audio books for the commute last half term but when I have tunes on it is an eclectic mix. On the way home it is usually big loud sing along badly to tunes to get my head clear. I do love a bit of punk rock to sing along with. In my car, no one can hear you sing.
For calmer journeys I like all sorts...Squeeze, Bryan Ferry, Deacon Blue, Eurythmics, Elvis (a bit of an aside here...Chinese Elvis did a gig regularly at a restaurant in Southwark and it is was a brilliant night out).
I do like a shuffle mix. Spotify's Discovery Weekly is ace for that, although it does throw some odd foreign songs into the mix!

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

         - A Year 6 child was making their memory book. I had taught him in Year 2. His favourite memory was this...."I remember that time Mrs Bennett fell off her chair during Guided Reading. It was my favourite thing to happen ever!"

What is your guilty pleasure?

         - Dunking bourbons in Whittards chocolate flake hot chocolate. I have two large bourbons to look forward to...and they HAVE to be eaten by next week!

I´d much rather be a Chunky Dunker.

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

         - A golf professional.
I started playing when I was 3. My dad was a golfer and we spent 5 weeks of my childhood summers in St Andrews playing. My dad reckoned I had one of the best swings he had ever seen.
I gave up when I left home to go to college but have since taken it up again.
In my leavers memory book, a colleague wrote that she saw me owning my own club in 5 years and also pointed out that the pay isn't bad, even if you are 150th in the world. I wouldn't do it for the money though.
One memory of being at St Andrews was following a group around the Old Course when they filmed Pro-Celebrity Golf with Peter Alliss. Tony Jacklin and Ben Crenshaw were the professionals, Bruce Forsyth and Sean Connery were the celebs. My ears had to be covered as Sean swore his way round.
I would have loved to have my picture taken on Swilken Bridge with a trophy (not just in my childhood beach clothes with a bucket and spade 😂).

I can just picture you in tartan trousers.

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

        - Getting provision right for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities.
The first step in this is to speak to and, more importantly, listen to their parents/family.
Inclusion in mainstream is not easy but it is also not always the right thing for a child. I have seen some of our children leave us to attend special schools and flourish even more, not because we are rubbish, but because our provision couldn't match that of specialist provision.
On the other hand, I have also seen some children leave us at the end of Year 6 as wonderful, rounded members of the community, having joined us in Nursery unable to speak or keep themselves safe. Those are some of my proudest moments in my career. It doesn't matter that the didn't sit SATs, their progress from start to end is excellent.
My blood boils when I see the curriculum narrowing for some children because of data driven agendas. This manifests itself in some children doing English and Maths in the morning and then interventions for these in the afternoon. WHY? All children should be involved in the whole curriculum, doing PE, Art, Music, Forest Schools, Dance, Drama, DT, Topic etc etc.
Children's talents could be untapped because of this RWM attainment led system.

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

         - PE. All aspects. You can get lots of other curricular content in there too - maths, storytelling, music, history, geography, indoor/outdoor, instant feedback and progress, team work, collaboration, co-operation, competition, tactics, leadership, resilience, practise, performance. Oh, and there would be no marking...ever!

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

         - My counting stick...number sequences and times tables are a breeze with this. Works well from Reception to Year 6 and it never needs recharging.

*Note, not Beth Bennett´s actual fingers.

It is a metre stick sectioned in tens. I use post it's for the numbers.
Can you add to the previous text that it can be used for fractions too please.

I´ve always wondered what that stick is for, I´ll be using that.

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

         - Consistency, consistency, consistency.
If you say something will happen, good or bad, it should happen.

Consistently, this is a common answer.

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

- My mum, who died when I was 14, just to have a catch up and let her know I did alright!
Seve Ballesteros - my mum's and my favourite golfer.
King Kenny (Dalglish) - my footballing hero.
Last but certainly not least, my darling husband, who usually does all the cooking. It would be a night off for him and he and my mum would get to meet each other.

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

- Best advice...it is not personal when children who are angry are swearing and calling you names. My favourite name that was shouted at me in the midst of a "moment" was "pigeonhead". This had followed an exchange during which I said "Please don't swear at me, I don't swear at you".
Worst advice...put everything on this list into a lesson and you will be an outstanding teacher.

Final Question: What drives you as a teacher?

         - What drives me as a teacher is trying to get it right for the children. As teachers we are there to make sure they can be the best that they can be, enabling them to aspire to things that might seem unachievable. This might be my 31st year in teaching coming up in September, but for the children it is their first and only year in whatever year group they will be in, so it needs to be the best it can be for them.

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

- Who next...@whatonomy please, because you are never sure what you are going to get with him.


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