We are delighted to announce that Alex Quigley, author of The Confident Teacher, is our Author of the Month.
We caught up with Alex to find out more about how teachers can take charge of their own professional development, become more confident in the classroom, and influence school improvement - read the exclusive interview below.
Why did you decide to write The Confident Teacher?
Back in 2013, I listened to Dylan Wiliam speak to an audience of teachers and say: “Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.” I agreed with him, hoping to get better myself, and sparking the thought that I might even be able to help other teachers too, in sharing my failures, successes, ideas and strategies. The book was effectively begun when I copied down those words about teachers getting better.
Since beginning the book, there have been a huge number of policies that have directly affected teachers, relating to accountability measures, teachers’ pay and changing school structures and more, but very little that actually supported teachers to get any better at teaching in the classroom. It continues to prove an annual missed opportunity for teachers and students the world over.
Ultimately, what provides my impetus for writing this book, is that I think that we should stop waiting for policy makers and school leaders to make the changes we want, and instead get on with getting that little bit better ourselves. Writing The Confident Teacher is my attempt to provide a useful tool for this undertaking.
Why ‘the confident teacher’?
I began writing a blog about teaching and learning back in 2013. My writing started as simple reflections on my practice and decisions that I made in my classroom, but it expanded to lots of different education topics. In germinating an idea for a book, I had realised that I kept on returning to the emotions experienced by teachers, and students, in schools. In particular, I reflected upon the impact of confidence, realising that our confidence in our capacity to teach successfully, and make a difference to the lives of our students, was a crucial factor in helping to determine our success.
Now, the book is quite clear that such emotional and psychological confidence needs to be twinned with practical competence and no little expertise. The book therefore focuses upon pragmatic concerns, like better managing our time and our workload, alongside a focus on developing our expertise in the hurly burly of the classroom.
Staring in the mirror and proclaiming ourselves confident will not work, but if we can enhance lots of our professional habits and make our teaching that little bit better then we will improve our lot and that of our students.
Why are teachers today facing so much stress?
I cite a quotation in the book from Lee Shulman that describes teaching as “perhaps the most complex, most challenging, and most demanding, subtle, nuanced, and frightening activity that our species has ever invented.” He is right. And it makes our job brilliant. We are seldom bored and we are always challenged, surprised, and sometimes even inspired by our students.
It also means our job is a stressful vocation. As I wrote the book, nearly 44,000 teachers in England responded to the ‘workload challenge’ of the Secretary of State for Education to complain about excessive workload. The toppling piles of marking, twinned with the bureaucracy that attends working in schools, no doubt proves more than just a ‘challenge’ for teachers when pitched alongside the emotional stresses and strains of supporting our students and colleagues each day.
Unfortunately, too many of the seeming solutions offered from policy makers and school leaders to solve our daily stresses have too little impact. Once more, I wanted to write about practical and pragmatic approaches to managing our workload (amongst other things) that any teacher can enact, in any given classroom, across the world or just across the corridor.
What is the one message you would like teachers to take from the book?
It is the message that we don’t have to wait around to improve our lot and to become better teachers – we have the power to seize our own professional improvement. One truth I have realised in my time as a school leader is that the most important decisions that influence school improvement are near invisible and they are undertaken by teachers, and students, every day within our classrooms. This book is about helping teachers to make those decisions that little bit more successfully.
Teaching can be too often presented in a bleak light, with issues like workload and recruitment crises blotting out the huge positives related to our profession, but I write my book with the firm belief that when we are the best version of ourselves then we can do great things.
Alex Quigley (@HuntingEnglish) is an English teacher and Director of Learning and Research at Huntington School, York.
The Confident Teacher offers a practical, step-by-step guide to developing the habits, characteristics and pedagogy that will enable you to do the best job possible. It unveils the tacit knowledge of great teachers and combines it with respected research and popular psychology. Covering topics such as organisation, using your body language effectively, combatting stress, managing student behaviour, questioning and feedback, and developing confident students, it shows how you can build the confidence and skill to flourish in the classroom.
This book will be an essential resource for all qualified and trainee teachers wanting to reach their full potential in this challenging but rewarding profession.
The Confident Teacher offers a practical, step-by-step guide to developing the habits, characteristics and pedagogy that will enable you to do the best job possible. It unveils the tacit knowledge of great teachers and combines it with respected research and popular psychology. Covering topics such…
Paperback – 2016-05-12
Being taught by a great teacher is one of the great privileges of life. Teach Now! is an exciting new series that opens up the secrets of great teachers and, step-by-step, helps trainees to build the skills and confidence they need to become first-rate classroom practitioners. Written by a…
Paperback – 2014-05-02