5/1/2023 0 Comments
“We have a huge responsibility to make sure our classroom practice is effective, robust, challenging and rigorous.”
Caroline Sherwood is currently Deputy Headteacher at Pilton Community College, and has taught at a range of schools across Devon and Somerset, as well as in Kent where she grew up. A passionate Teacher of English, Caroline teaches English and relishes her time in the classroom where she can share her love for literature.
An aspiring writer in her own right, Caroline is a regular contributor to educational magazine, SecEd; writing articles on subjects including Teaching and Learning and Leadership and she is currently writing her own book on leadership.
Caroline is excited to be leading our SWIFT How to Teach Boys to Succeed in School CPD programme with Mark Roberts, author of “Boys Don't Try? Rethinking Masculinity in Schools” and “The Boy Question: How to Teach Boys to Succeed In School.”
1. How did you come to be involved in the SWIFT “How to Teach Boys to Succeed in School” training programme?
in 2017, I wrote an article for SecEd about the gender achievement gap, exploring how boys and girls assemble constructions of gender based on what they are exposed to in order to “fit” social norms.
I have been interested in the topic of gender constructions for some time, including how we give preference to particular behaviours, interests, and the school subjects that girls and boys are expected to like (see: Gender Issues in School: What works to improve achievement for boys and girls, DCSF, 2009). It is interesting how these behaviours based on gender construction can impact on achievement.
Recent studies suggest the environment we create for our children has the greatest impact on the way boys and girls learn and what they learn. So, as classroom practitioners, it is reassuring that teachers can play a positive role.
It is not simply a case of being at the mercy of our genetics or, significantly, being limited by our gender. Our cognitive ability, personality, interests and preferences are not only determined by our gender. Rather, our response, consciously or subconsciously, to the environment, including the gender stereotypes to which we are exposed can make a difference.
Research shows that both nature and nurture help to shape us. An interaction which biologists refer to as epigenetic.
As classroom practitioners, we understand that our pupils are not always armed, as we are, with the critical tools to analyse, challenge or scrutinise information and what is presented to children by adults as fact, is often absorbed by children and young people as irrefutable and incontestable.
As teachers in the classroom, we need to be careful not to pass on our inherited assumptions about gender to our pupils about what they are good or not good at learning. Children’s brains are significantly more pliable and malleable than adults’ brains, which means that what happens on a daily basis in your classroom shapes your pupils’ brains and ultimately their futures.
We have a huge responsibility to make sure our classroom practice is effective, robust, challenging and rigorous.
2. As the programme facilitator, what are your success criteria for the How to Teach Boys to Succeed in School programme?
The sessions will follow the content of Mark's book “The Boy Question”:
It is hoped that delegates will feel equipped to action sustainable change in their setting and we understand that this might vary from delegate to delegate depending on their context. A real strength of the course will be to provide space and freedom to ensure the learning and takeaways fit delegates’ context and this is where the experience of Mark Roberts will be valuable, given he is the expert and has invested time into research and his own personal experience. The programme will, I hope, answer some big questions including, how to get boys reading more; as well as considering a curriculum best placed to help boys to acquire powerful knowledge.
Running in parallel with the programme we will explore the EEF implementation guide and the following foundations for successful implementation:
(1) Process: treat implementation as a process, not an event.
(2) Environment: create a leadership environment and school climate that is conducive to good implementation.
(3) Explore: define the problem you want to solve.
(4) Prepare: create a leadership implementation plan, judge the readiness of the school to deliver that plan, then prepare staff and resources.
(5) Deliver: support staff, monitor progress, solve problems, and adapt strategies as the approach is used for the first time.
(6) Sustain: plan for sustaining and scaling an intervention from the outset and continuously acknowledge and nurture its use.
“Schools are learning organisations. They continuously strive to do better for the children and young people in their charge. In doing so, they try new things, seek to learn from those experiences, and work to adopt and embed the practices that work best…Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how great an educational idea or intervention is in principle; what really matters is how it manifests itself in the day-to-day work of people in schools.” (EEF)
There will be opportunity for discussion about the actual problems faced by teachers in their schools, with time to think about how to implement strategies and how best to do so based on research.
3. What do you hope to bring to the programme from your own classroom experience in motivating the boys that you teach?
I do not claim to be the expert. But I am proud to say that I am relentlessly looking for ways to improve - both in the classroom and as a school leader.
As a Teacher of English, I ensure that all my students, including the boys that I teach produce consistently good academic writing. Mark Roberts is best placed to discuss this and it is, in fact, something that we will be exploring on the programme.
Explicitly teaching boys at every stage of the writing process; focusing on word, sentence and whole text level work; and ensuring students - including boys, of course - have lots of opportunities to engage in challenging and successful deliberate practice.
4. Are you looking forward to working with Mark Roberts on the programme?
As an author, Mark Roberts is an inspiration for me as it is where I want to be, as I enjoy engaging with academic research and writing and having a voice through my writing.
At the time of Mark’s first book, “Boys Don't Try” we had the Covid pandemic and this inevitably strengthened the focus on operational priorities of keeping children safe and this focus on boys’ underachievement slowed down or stopped.
So, Mark’s next book, “The Boy Question” comes at a good time to pick up again with purpose and for teachers and leaders to start making changes to tackle underachievement. I like that the book directly tackles some of the real challenges schools face every day, and provides tips for teachers. This has become all the more important to me in my role as Deputy Head, as I feel a sense of responsibility for all students we serve.
5. Finally, with your enthusiasm for teaching English, how do you foresee sharing this love on the programme?
I love that the programme is essentially a book club with time and space to engage with academic texts, meaningfully and critically.
Leaders are readers, so it is important to engage with academic texts.
At Pilton I am proud to have set up a reading group for our leaders to network and share an academic reading focus.
Our middle leaders are currently reading “Fierce conversations” by Susan Scott and our SLT are reading Mary Myatt’s “Huh: Curriculum conversations between subject and senior leaders.”
I know that colleagues find these dedicated discussion times to be valuable and insightful and are keen to put the thinking and theory into practice.
We thank Caroline for explaining more about her interest in supporting boys to succeed and we thank her in advance for leading our How to Teach Boys to Succeed in School programme with Mark Roberts.
The programme starts in February and will focus on the following themes:
Interview by Jude Owens, PA to the SWIFT Executive Team