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Balancing the books – how to juggle teaching and continuing reading.

As the host of a podcast all about applying educational reading in the classroom – From Page to Practice (available on all major podcast platforms)- reading about teaching is clearly something I consider to be worthwhile. So my job here is to convince you of the same and show you how it can be done alongside your teaching.

I’ll start by giving you a little context about me. I am a full time Head of Spanish in a large academy in Essex. I am also a Head of House on a voluntary basis. Outside of school I tweet @BexN91, run @MFLChat, team lead for TeachMeet MFL Icons and am a Council Member of the Chartered College of Teaching. All this should go to show how passionate I am about quality CPD for teachers, collaboration and community. This passion was further developed when I participated in the Chartered Teacher programme, on which I now mentor. It was shortly after becoming a Chartered Teacher that I started the podcast as I had a new-found enthusiasm for educational reading.

So why do I think it’s important to read about teaching? First of all, I think if we are to consider ourselves to be professionals then it is important that we are interested in staying up to date with the latest developments in our field. Now of course this doesn’t have to be through reading, but it is certainly one way of keeping updated. Reading can give us new ideas, reinforce old ones and correct misconceptions. Importantly, reading can give us insight into what is happening outside our own classroom, school or academy trust. Reading about teaching can help us better understand what we are being taught at INSET sessions and can also help us to question the not-so-great training that might, unfortunately, be provided.

That’s all well and good, but how on earth do you find the time?! I hear you. If there’s one thing that as teachers we are always wanting more of it’s time. Firstly, there are apparently schools out there that build this kind of time into their timetables and calendars. Amazing! However, 99% of us, including me, do not work in those schools, so how do we do it? My tips would be:

  1. Set reasonable expectations. You do not need to read all of the books. It’s just not necessary and to be honest, lots of them repeat each other in slightly different ways.

  2. Books aren’t the only option. Blogs are great and journals such as the Impact journal from the Chartered College of Teaching make the research really accessible to all.

  3. Pick what is going to be useful to you. Don’t just read things that re-hash what you already know and believe, although every now and again this is useful. Pick reading that introduces something new or might make you question certain practices. If you’re investing time into something it should be something that is going to have the biggest possible impact.

  4. Think about what else you are doing. If you think you don’t have time is it possible you are spending too long on other work tasks? Again, what is going to have the biggest impact on your students, ticking and flicking a set of books or improving your practice in a certain area?

Finally, reading is all well and good but you have to actually do something with it. You can litter the pages with sticky notes, annotations and highlighted passages but none of that is any good unless you are actually doing something with that content. So here are my thoughts on implementing your reading:

  1. Little by little. You can’t do it all at once! Remember when you trained to teach and you tried to put everything into practice right away? Think about how successfully that went… if you’re anything like me then it didn’t go very well.

  2. Try, reflect, adapt, repeat. Don’t just try something once and decide it didn’t work so it’s not worth the bother. Referring to your training once again, be reflective. You don’t need to write reflective logs like you perhaps did back then (although you could) but do take a few moments to think about how it went. Ask yourself why something did or didn’t work, and if there is anything you could do differently next time.

  3. Share and discuss. Whilst working on your practice alone is fine, working with a colleague could be even more effective. Someone to bounce ideas around and share success and failure with can be really useful. This doesn’t have to be a colleague from school, Twitter and Instagram are full of teachers that want to do exactly this.

My final tip? Cheat. You don’t actually have to do all the reading yourself. There are a whole host of edu-podcasts out there now discussing the content of these books. They’re a great way of filling time on a commute, dog walk or run. That’s a whole other blog post, in fact I’ve already written about it here.


@BexN91 – Twitter

@Pagepracticepod – Twitter

@Pagepracticepodcast – Instagram

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