Musings: Teach Like Nobody’s Watching by Mark Enser

The book

Enser, Mark. Teach Like Nobody’s Watching. 2019. Crown House Publishers.

My reading viewpoint

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Mark’s book to review, from Crown House Publishers. I follow Mark on Twitter and enjoy reading what he has to say about education, so it follows that I’d want to read his book! As always, I read with a primary focus.

Summary

What I found interesting about Mark’s book is that I ‘knew’ a lot of it – it summarises what I believe to be great teaching. Still, it is affirming, I found myself nodding and I still learned some things (see below). If you are a new teacher, a trainee, or stuck in a rut with teaching wondering if there is another way, then this book is for you. As Mark (via Prof. Daniel Mujis, of Ofsted) points out – we teachers will grab anything and try and make it work, like ‘ being instructed to eat soup with a fork … The soup would get eaten, but at what cost?’ (p.6). If this sounds like you – read the book.

Mark’s writing style is straightforward, no-nonsense and easy to understand, which makes the book easy to read. Case studies, points for reflection and summaries all lend themselves to ease of reading and the chapters, organised into areas including feedback and teacher input, mean you are able to dip in and out.

The text is peppered with examples however many of these are secondary based, with some being a little lost on me where my own subject knowledge is not as deep. For me, this means that while I believe all teachers can read the book, secondary colleagues may find this easier to relate to. It’s not a criticism of the ideas within the book, though!

As I said, many of the ideas were not new to me – they summarised ‘just good teaching’. Similarly if, like me, you read widely, you may find some of the concepts in the book – retrieval practice, ideas around feedback and assessment – things you have already read about. However, I don’t think this is a bad thing and as a summary of a number of these key ideas then Teach Like Nobody’s Watching is a great place to start.

My key takeaways

1. Make links between lessons, make them explicit and help pupils to learn. I am a huge advocate of making links between teaching, but Enser makes the point clear – we need to find ways to connect learning to other areas. While this is relatively easy in something like maths, I definitely want to think more deeply about connecting seemingly more disparate topics in areas such as History.

2. Cornell note taking. This is a totally new-to-me concept and something I could see working in UKS2 onward. Essentially, it involves adapting a page of work to leave space for pupil-generated summary of learning and pupil-generated quiz-type questions. Retrieval, revision and questioning all rolled into one!

3. Instruction/modelling is key, but teacher subject knowledge has to be there. Enser argues – quite rightly – that in order for teachers to model and explain something they need to have a really good understanding. How we achieve this in primary is tricky, but using shared explanations may help.

I think you should read this book if…

  • You are a new teacher, particularly secondary, but primary practitioners would gain too.
  • You have worked in a culture of high stakes observations, triple marking and other non-negotiables and think ‘there must be another way’.
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