Professional Learning – The Wellspring Book Review

24 Sep 2019   |   Dave Whitaker, Director of Learning Special / AP

As professional educators we are always learning. We should never think we know everything and always be willing to learn from our colleagues and our peers. Visiting our academies is always a pleasure and every time I step foot in a school there is something to learn. Every conversation with a school leader, a teacher or a teaching assistant is an opportunity to learn. Never underestimate the power of professional conversations and informal chats about work and school.

Reading is also a great way of developing our thinking, generating curiosity and fueling our enthusiasm for school and personal development. Finding time to read books can be so difficult but, if you find the right one, immersing yourself in a great book can be a great way to really motivate yourself and stimulate those learning muscles that may have been relaxed for a while.

Over the summer two things happened to me that I would like to share with you now. Firstly, I was asked to review a book. Secondly, I got some reading glasses to help me!  One of the problems of getting old is the need to get readers. However, they have changed my life and I no longer see blurred words. Colleagues, I highly recommend a visit to Spec Savers if you are in denial.

I would like to propose that we use the Wellspring Newsletter to share great books we have read. Signposting colleagues to books, nudging principals to develop their CPD library and making sure we don’t waste time reading rubbish publications we could have written better. Time is precious so let’s help make sure it is used well.

I’d like to invite you to share books and a short review in the newsletter. I’ll start with this –

This book gives us a refreshing perspective from a teacher who has actually walked the walk and doesn’t just talk the talk. A true expert! Drawing from years of experience working with ‘troubled children’, Nelmes is able to use anecdote and real examples that focus on the reasons why children challenge teachers and the education system. Without making excuses he skillfully explains how children’s anxiety, their environments and trauma can manifest itself in seriously challenging behavior. He then helps explain how, after years of reflection, learning and soul searching, he is able to deal with this and make a real difference to the lives of the children he has taught. He cleverly manages to explain how, in education, we focus too much on behavior and not enough on emotion. He describes how, when trying to win the hearts and minds of children, we sometimes focus too much on minds and not hearts. Using real live stories and examples from schools where he has worked, Nelmes draws upon the ‘nitty-gritty of practice’ that so brilliantly frames the work of teachers in SEMH schools.

This is a book that should be read by any Ofsted inspector charged with the challenge of inspecting a SEMH school, PRU or Alternative Provision. It should also be read by every teacher who works in one of these schools. In fact, this book should be read by any teacher who has ever encountered challenging behavior in a classroom or school. This book will restore your faith, help explain those dark moments, encourage you to continue and reinforce the reasons why you chose to do the job you do.

That is hopefully the first of many book reviews that we can share across our learning community. Beware, I may be asking you to choose a book and let everyone know what you think about it. So, get reading!

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