A bbc Interview with Sam Collins @samschoolstuff

Sam Collins is a Primary School teacher at a school in Torbay. She is also the founder of Schoolwell, a Staff Wellbeing site which has been online since April 2016. Sam is presenting at Lead Learn Lancs 2017 on September 30th.  https://leadlearnlancs.wordpress.com/

What made you become a teacher?

- The truth be told, I resisted becoming a teacher for a long time. It had been suggested to me a few times, I was really resistant to the idea. I felt I needed to get out of the education system after my degree. After graduating, I worked for a mobile phone company in credit control. The job itself was OK, but it became clear that it wasn't really going anywhere, and one day I looked up and realised I'd been there two years. At the same time a close friend had just started teacher training and he absolutely loved it.  It seemed like a good idea, so I applied and got onto the Early Years PGCE at Oxford Brookes. And that, as they say, was that.

What is your favourite part of the job?

- It's got to be working with the children. I really enjoy their company, and there's no buzz like the buzz of a child caught in the very moment of learning. That's the real joy of the job, lighting that fuse.

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

- Can I talk about my work with Schoolwell for this one? I hope so because I had an incredible experience this summer. I was fortunate enough to be invited to present at the Festival of Education. At first I was inclined not to, but I decided this was an opportunity that wouldn't come again so, carpe diem and all that, I said yes. I was part of a panel with Karen Wespieser of the NFER and Dr Emma Kell, talking about teacher retention. It was quite a small event in the context of the entire festival but it was such a privilege to be able to do it and I met some really interesting people. That would have to be the best thing this year.

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

- The amount of work and goodwill among the teaching profession that is wasted by badly thought out policy at local and national level. Teachers are such a committed group of people, look at the enthusiasm for teachmeets for example. We want to do our job well, yet the system as it stands works against it. Too many brilliant teachers being forced out of teaching at the moment. All that talent and energy wasted. It makes me really angry.

What songs would be on your driving to work playlist?

- Gwen Stefani - What you waiting for? Royal Blood - Figure it out. Hot Chip - Ready for the Floor. Ike and Tina Turner - Proud Mary. DJ Fresh - Golddust.  If I'm not shouting at the Today program on Radio 4, that is.

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

         - I wish I could remember. So many funny things happen when you are working in school, and at the time you're crying with laughter but it turns out that, put on the spot to relate one, I can't. Sorry.

Well that´s a let-down!

What is your guilty pleasure?

- Abba.

Shouldn´t one of those Bs be backwards? Not a true fan.

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

         - I always wanted to be a writer, and even though a lot of my work outside school involves writing but it's not exactly as I envisaged it. Blogging wasn't a job then, (not even sure it's really a job now!) so I was more hoping to write the The Great British Novel. Perhaps it's not too late.

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

- In a nutshell, staff wellbeing. Too many brilliant staff are being needlessly lost to education because of the lack of it. It's my belief that we can empower staff to take more control over their own wellbeing. I will be presenting on this at #LLL17.

Shameless plug.

Be not ashamed.

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

         - Reading. I don't mean the nuts and bolts of it (important as that is) but really engaging with a text, reading for pleasure, exploring the world inside a book. It saddens me that reading out loud to primary classes seems to be being edged out by the demands of the curriculum. It's one of my enduring memories of primary school, and one of my favourite things to do with a class. To spend half an hour wallowing in a great book is really special. Not just reading it, but discussing it, exploring character and motivation and comparing it to other texts. The value of it is immeasurable.

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

        - Visualisers are endlessly useful - pop a child's book or whiteboard on it to share with the class, show the whole class clearly the detail in a picture book, write directly onto a piece of paper when you are shared writing (I find this much easier than writing on the IWB), and if all else fails, ours have a negative mode which always grabs attention.

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

        - Not the most effective for learning, for sure, but if you need to get children to move quietly around the school, Secret Walker is a winner. You secretly write the name of a child on a scrap of paper, fold it up and pin it up high in the classroom (to prevent tampering).  That child is the secret walker.  If the secret walker displays excellent behaviour while moving around the school, the whole class gets a reward (we have house points so it's really easy - whole class gets 5 house points each). If they don't, the piece of paper is thrown away without the secret walker being revealed, and no one gets anything. I've only ever had to throw the paper away once.

Yoink! I´m definitely using that next year.

- When I say you secretly write it, you actually make a big deal to the class about the fact that you are secretly writing it. Left that rather important point out.

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

- Ada Lovelace, with whom I share a birthday, fact fans. Her work in computing was visionary.
  Josephine Baker, not only a heroine of the French resistance, but also important in the American Civil Rights Movement.
  Maurice Sendak , because Where the Wild Things Are is my all time favourite children’s book. If you like I can recite it for you.
 Prince; how I would love to have a conversation with him. No idea if it would make any sense though.  A genius taken far too soon.

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

         - The best  advice I had as a new teacher was to put titles and captions on displays in cloud shapes. I am not what you would call gifted in the getting things straight department and this saved me hours of frustration. Of course, now no one ever hand writes their display titles or captions so it's usefulness to others is limited, sorry about that. When it comes to bad advice, I've had bag-fulls of the stuff. Over the years I've been trained in the literacy hour, brain gym, learning styles and countless other things that have turned out to be absolute  nonsense.

But earned some individuals lots of cash!

Final Question: What drives you as a teacher?

- What drives me as a teacher? It's the children. Always the children.

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

- Has anyone suggested @cerasmusteach? She is doing amazing work in staff and student wellbeing?


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