A bbc interview with Ashley Booth @mrboothY6

Welcome to today´s bbc Interview with Ashley Booth.
Please introduce yourself...

I'm a Year 6 teacher originally from Bury. I teach in Toxteth, Liverpool and I'm going into my fourth year of teaching. I lead Computing and the school development plan area of Reading.

What made you become a teacher?

I knew from about halfway through High School that I wanted to be a teacher. I was a clever lad and I enjoyed presenting to peers and the like. But, what really steered it for me was my own experiences of school as a child. I struggled through the entirety of Primary and High School. I was diagnosed with ADHD in Year 4 and I grew up in poverty and in a house where DV was rife. (I should take the opportunity to say my mum is the most wonderful woman I have ever met, she saved my bacon from being expelled from School a lot of times, and she worked long and laborious hours to try and make sure we had what we needed.) I found it very hard to concentrate, very hard to make relationships with adults, and very hard if anyone challenged me in what I perceived to be an attacking manner. Anyway, the majority of my teachers didn't know what to do with me and didn't particularly care. It wasn't so bad at Primary School, although my year 6 teacher eventually just assigned me a desk on the corridor as she had decided I 'wasn't worthy of being in the classroom' verbatim. In Secondary School, I had a maths teacher for two years who would mostly greet my arrival into the classroom with 'oh Ashley I don't have the energy today, I've printed you off two worksheets so take them down to the library and complete them there'. She literally didn't care if I brought them back or not. We had a new D and T teacher in Year 9 who decided, based purely on my reputation, I wouldn't be allowed to use any of the tools. Despite the fact I had never caused any physical harm to any staff or pupils in my whole time at the school. My Year 10 science teacher told me to shut the f**k up and when I challenged him on it he said 'Who do you really think they're going to believe?' It was basically a culmination of the last moment and my horrible maths teacher that led me to the decision that one day I would be a teacher. One who was nothing like either of those two. In fact, my amazing Year 4 and Year 5 teacher (who probably moved up with us as I very, very rarely misbehaved for her) is exactly who I strive to be like. She was firm but caring. She laid exactly where the boundaries were, but she knew I was going to break them. Despite this, she never ever held it against me and we had an amazing relationship and two years together. I can only hope to be as good as her one day.

It shows how important teachers, good and bad, can be as an influence on your practice.

What is your favourite part of the job?

Definitely the relationships with children. I feel like we're blessed to get these 30ish amazing individuals each year, with amazing personalities, that you can get to know and shape and change forever. And each class changes you forever too. Children have taught me more about myself than anything else ever has. There's no greater feeling than the mutual trust between you and a child that allows them to relax and truly enjoy and embrace learning. Hearing children say 'I never loved reading before this' or 'I didn't know maths could be so much fun' is so rewarding, and it only happens when you truly trust and respect each other.

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

I feel like I really turned reading culture on its head this year. We had learners who didn't read, didn't want to read and didn't see the value of reading. I stripped everything back and made it about good book recommendations and dangling the carrot of those books. Reading became for pleasure and not because they were told they had to for ten minutes every day. It's something I'm really proud of. We got a lot of great stuff through Twitter too, I had one girl who probably had her life changed by Abi Elphinstone, just through a few Twitter interactions, she managed to amass all three of her trilogy, signed, as well as she's going to appear in her new book. Was amazing to see the impact it had on her.
From the outside, it seems like it´s been a fantastic year of Reading in your class.
What is the most frustrating thing about teaching at the moment?

To be honest, not much frustrates me. There are highs and lows of the job as there are with any, but I try and avoid negativity and stick to what's great about it. We all know assessment is a bit of a shambles and it needs tidying up, but I'm confident it eventually will be. I suppose I do get frustrated when I see NQTs told to overcomplicate everything and they hit the ground running with an overly complicated, unnecessary workload. My PGCE was all about throwing out bells and whistles observations once a fortnight for your observer, when actually those types of lessons are massively constraining and usually the best and deepest learning goes on in the simplest lessons. I remember as an NQT throwing up ten amazing looking, colourful displays ready for September, plastered with adverbs and motivational quotes, when really I wish someone had just told me I was basically putting up complicated wallpaper. I wish somebody had told me I didn't need to reward behaviour by having seventeen different coloured marbles that were awarded to each table when they'd completed a seven step ladder of behavioural sequences in the classroom, and that actually just saying 'well done' or 'no thats not right' can be just as effective. I still see this stuff being deeply embedded into new teachers now and I'm just not sure how we can tackle it and help them realise that actually, simpler is better. I guess that frustrates me.

What songs would be on your driving to work playlist?

I'd have to say.....The Best Of The Beatles. No, but, confession time - I can't drive! I've never needed to so I've never bothered. I do listen to music on the way to work though (sometimes audible - I can currently be caught listening to The Dark Wild). I was a 'mosher' back in my hey day so I still love stuff like Alexisonfire, Glassjaw, Fall Out Boy and Deftones, but generally I've got quite an eclectic taste. I was a DJ before I was a teacher so I've got playlists coming out of my ears. One of my favourite Spotify playlists is my 'Belter Ballads' playlist. Can't beat rocking up to work while internally singing Whitney Houston's 'Didn't We Almost Have It All' to an imaginary crowd of millions.

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

When I was in my NQT year I used to slink out at lunch time every Wednesday and go to Mcdonalds. I thought it was my best kept secret. I left that school at the end of the year and one girl got me a card that said 'I'll miss the way you sneak off to McDonalds on a Wednesday and think we don't know' and got me these cakes.

It shows how much children notice.

What is your guilty pleasure?

I don't believe in guilty pleasures. Something I like that many don't is absolutely TRASH television. I love all reality television: Big Brother, Love Island, I'm a Celeb, the X Factor, The Voice Kids, literally ping it all my way. Stuff like Can't pay we'll take it away or Undercover Boss USA too. Love all that.

Oh dear, and we were doing so well!

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

Definitely a chef. I'm obsessed with food, I absolutely love it and I cook nearly every day. I love going out to eat and travelling around the world eating. I still have a lot to learn, but I think I'm a pretty good cook at this stage. Sounds weird to say as a teacher though, but the hours for a chef are an absolute killer!

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

Well like I said, I'm really passionate about food. I love it. I've been to 10 of the world top 50 restaurants and have another 3 booked in in the next few weeks. It won't come as a surprise to learn I love reading. I also just love learning - I always relish a new topic I've not taught before in school because I get to hone my own subject knowledge. In school terms, I'm passionate about getting every child reading. Every child. No exceptions.

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

Reading. I could spend days just reading books with children and talking about them. I've had genuine moments of anxiety about how many books I want to share with the children and how little time there is.

I´m getting the idea that you like Reading.

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

For me you can't top the use of an iPad as a visualiser. If you train the kids to use them (Must admit I was very fortunate to have 2:1 iPads this year, 1:1 this coming year) they can throw their work on the television in seconds - misconceptions can be addressed and discussed and mini plenarised so quickly and succinctly. It's invaluable. I also think seesaw is just amazing. Such a great place to store work. One way I've loved using it towards the end of the year is using it to hear those children you just simply don't have time in the school day to hear read 1:1. Get them to read for 5 mins aloud on seesaw, listen to it back when you have time and leave a comment. I get through everyone in a week now and I can pick up those I hear issues with. Again, invaluable.

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

I think showing you care is the most effective classroom system. Taking that little bit of extra time to check on every child and ask them about that thing they mentioned to you a few weeks ago, ask how their family is, refer back to their interests. Show you genuinely care in them as a person and appeal to their individual nature and personality and then behaviour management and learning behaviours tend to take care of themselves. I also think you need to always have stringently high expectations for everyone, yourself included. I don't want to hear that someone can't do something and the children know that. Maybe you can't do it yet, but we're gonna find a way to get you there.

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

I'll go twitter cos it's more interesting. I'd love to have @claresealy there, her intelligence and sensible approach to everything just blow me away, there is so much to be learned from her; I'd have@chrisdysonHT to dish out the love and positivity; I'd take @_missiebee cos she's a legend and then @redgierob because I know he'd be as into the posh food as I am, plus he's also a legend.

Dyson will pick up the bill, I´m sure.

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

The best advice was to never take anything personally and remove emotion from volatile situations with children. They are often looking for your reaction and rising a rung above them on the ladder just spurs them on. The worst advice I was ever given was to group by ability. Enough said.

A strong view, I´ve still not decided on ability seating. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. One to ponder. 

Final Question: What drives you as a teacher?

The children drive me. There's not much more I can say about that. The children are everything and I'll do anything to see them all succeed.

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

You should interview Clare Sealy or Sophie Bee for my money. I've included Missie Bee cos I'm guessing someone's already said Clare!


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