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Outstanding teaching by David Dunn


Every parent wants the best for their child when it comes to education, and choosing the right school for your son or daughter with the best teachers is often a source of great concern. Now, one inspiring teacher has written a book, How to be an Outstanding Primary School Teacher, to try to inspire others to become outstanding teachers and to encourage best practice in teaching. We spoke to teacher and author David Dunn to find out more about his work, and began by asking him what he believes are the qualities that make a really outstanding teacher.

There are a number of qualities that add together to make an outstanding teacher, but for me the two that are of the utmost importance are relationships and expectations. The best teachers form fantastic relationships with the children they teach, based on honesty, respect and fun! I think that it’s imperative that this is the case. They also have high expectations of each and every child in their class - and that means high expectations in every area; from behaviour, to manners, to work, to each other - to everything. By having these expectations and maintaining them, which isn't always easy, the teacher is making sure that every child progresses to the best of their ability - and this is what makes a teacher outstanding. Or, to be more specific, this is what makes the learning outstanding - all children achieving their potential.

Do you think that anyone can become an outstanding teacher - or are really talented teachers born to be good at the job?

I dare say there will be some conflicting opinions on this one! I believe, truthfully, that any teacher can become outstanding if, and here's the crunch, if they truly want to. And that, unfortunately, doesn't mean paying lip-service to becoming a better teacher, it actually means having that real desire to be the best you can be, for the children you teach. And that part is more difficult. It means looking at your own practice very carefully and identifying the areas that are not as good as you'd like them to be. But you have to be totally honest with yourself - and that can sometimes be the difficult part. Good teachers don't just 'happen' - somewhere along the road they have developed their practice.

A lot of the skill of being good at any job is about your enthusiasm and commitment - is it inevitable that these start to fade when you've been teaching for a long time?

Not necessarily. We are in the privileged position of being able to control, to a certain extent, our daily work. We decide how we teach something and the more that you put into it, the more you get out! When teachers continue to do the same thing year on year, it is inevitable, eventually, that they will become disillusioned and lose enthusiasm. It is our responsibility, as teachers, to be continually developing ourselves and what we do. The teachers who don't want to do that will, over time, get less enthusiastic about the job.

We hear a lot nowadays about the level of disruption in classes - do you think being a great teacher in many of our schools is related to how quickly and how effectively you can control a class of children?

Make no mistake about it - if you don't have the children's behaviour under control then there will never be great learning happening in your classroom. A fundamental aspect of outstanding teaching and learning is that all children are ready to learn - which means their behaviour has to be right.

When parents are looking for schools for children, what are the signs of outstanding teaching that they should be looking out for?

Engaged children is probably the easiest thing to spot as a parent looking round a school. You're not likely to know what a child of a given age should be learning, so you need to look for something that's more generic. And children being engaged in what's going on is a good starting point. Are they looking at the teacher? Are they eager to give answers? If they're discussing something, are they all engaged in the discussion? There are many little things you could look for but, to be honest, this engagement factor will give you a good indication of what the children think about their learning in that particular classroom, and that's a pretty good starting point as to what else is happening.

Do you think parents make up for a lack of outstanding teaching at school by helping children at home?

Parents have a vitally important role to play in their child's education - as big a role as any teacher in any school. Showing an interest in their child's learning and discussing it with them at home can have a huge impact. So I don't necessarily think of it as 'making up for poor teaching' as being an integral part of their child's development.

About the author:

David Dunn is currently working as a primary school Deputy Head Teacher in the West Midlands. He has worked in a number of primary schools and is also an Advanced Skills Teacher. David has been working as a teacher in the West Midlands for the past ten years and is the author of the book 'How to be an Outstanding Primary School Teacher', published in April 2011 by Continuum Publishers.


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