All posts by petercreber

Senior Deputy Head Teacher at Westfield Academy,Watford

Questioning better than Johan

We started our session this week with a consideration of Johan Cruyff’s gnomic comment:

‘If I’d wanted you to understand I’d have explained it better’


What did he mean by this?

Did he expect his players to literally work it out themselves on the pitch?

Did this empower his players (and win loads of games)?

How did his non-explanatory beliefs influence his coaching style, and future coaches?

Was he just not able to explain to players not blessed with his talent?

These questions started our session on questioning, and its’ fundamental importance for teachers and the learning process.

I borrowed extremely liberally from Tom Sherrington’s article on Questioning, to consider a number of objectives:

-Reviewing different questioning strategies

-Applying to different scenarios

-Creating a practical questioning bank to use in the classroom

Ultimately the aim was to develop a bank and variety of questioning strategies that enabled colleagues to

-Shows where the class and individuals are at, and how they can improve

-Helps us adapt and shape our teaching

-Allows questioning in depth, checking understanding and involves all learners

-Explores thinking processes and misconceptions

All of these are fundamental to the learning process.

The 7 strategies we looked at where lifted from the above article by Tom Sherrington:

  • Cold-Calling
  • No Opt-Out
  • Checking for Understanding
  • Probing
  • Say it Again Better
  • Think-Pair-Share
  • Whole-Class Response

Pairs considered their strategy, clarified on when and how it might be used, then role-played it in action (aaargh).

For the rest of the week we will be sharing how we use these strategies with our classes, and their impact on the learning of the students.

Finally, what strategy would you use this for these questions:

Why don’t MacDonald’s sell hot dogs?

How can a 51-year old pull a muscle doing yoga in a CPD session?


Fighting for a better future

This month we have been holding assemblies based around Black History Month, with our own Westfield twist of Believe Strive Achieve.

Last week we looked at the example of Colin Kaepernick, an American footballer, currently a free agent, but a figurehead for Black Lives Matter, as well as the recent Nike ‘Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything’ campaign.

Colin Kaepernick protest

Taking the knee

During a training match Kaepernick knelt rather than stand during the National Anthem, as a protest and gesture of solidarity towards the victims of shooting incidents that had lead to the Black Lives Matter campaign.

‘I’m not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.’


His actions caused a storm, resulting in the termination of his contract. Despite his talent, he remains a free agent, without a team. His principles have lead him to this situation.



The assembly coincided with the birthday of ee cummings, an American poet celebrated for his individualism:

“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.”

Both Cummings and now Colin Kaepernick have striven for this nobody-but-yourself bravery, and are an example for all of us.

Kaepernick is now part of a major advertising campaign, that has both its’ lovers and haters. His message is clear:

What would you stand for?


Book monitoring with benefits

Monitoring week this week, looking at:

  • Presentation: is there care & effort in student work?
  • Amount & quality of student work, including type / rigour of work: is it challenging?
  • Homework – is there evidence of regularity / in back of book?
  • Teacher input – is there evidence of checking / correcting / feedback?

This was just a start on our drive on books for 2018-19, with student learning, and how it is presented, taking centre stage. we want students to take a pride in their work, with their books a tool for both current understanding and learning, and also for future re-learning and the development of deep learning and mastery.

Of course, looking through 8 faculties-worth of key Stage 3 books, just like marking a set of books, can be onerous on occasions, but the benefits are always there! The pictures below are just a few of the lovely pieces of work I have seen over the last 2 days from our Key Stage 3 students. Aided by their teachers, they have really responded to the challenge of our whole-school drive. the effort, engagement and enjoyment of a good piece of work has been fantastic.So monitoring really does have its’ benefits!

Middle Leader Powerhouses

At Westfield we are passionate about supporting everyone to flourish – and this includes our staff.

We are using Lesson Study for the first time this year and every teacher is in a Trio – first trio meeting was this Monday so more on this later!

However we are also running a Middle Leadership Training Course – all current and aspiring middle leaders are invited to attend.


The first session was all about leadership.  What is it?  What does it look like?  Is there one style that works better than others in schools?

There was a bit of reading (John MacBeaths’ Alphabet Soup of Leadership) and colleagues reflected on their preferred leadership style and how to move beyond it when they needed to.

We then looked at scenarios in small groups and tried to cultivate a perfect response to each one – of course there is no such thing but working together meant we felt more confident about how we’d respond to similar occurrences in the future.

Towards the end of our session we moved in to management and the practicalities of continuing to be expert practitioners whilst leading a team.  It’s a juggling act!

Resistance statement Super Question
‘We musn’t do it that way.’ ‘What would happen if we did?’
‘I can’t do that right now.’ ‘I can understand your difficulty but what exactly is preventing you from doing it?’
‘That’s just impossible!’ ‘What would have to happen to make it possible?’
‘I always do it this way.’ ‘Has there been a time when you have not?’

We have started to develop our Heads of Faculty calendar and will in time create our HoF Manual.

I firmly feel that Heads of Department are the powerhouse of any school and they need to have the support and opportunities to network to be fully productive.

I ndicate the benefits of their ideas

N eutralise resistance, preferably in advance

F ind alternative ways to influence others

L isten attentively to what others say

U ncover needs and wants

E mphathise continuously

N otice how others respond

C reate and maintain rapport throughout any given situation

E liminate weak statements from their language

R eview and rehearse the arguments

Future sessions will include:

  • 3/10 Monitoring work in the Faculty (books)
  • 7/11 Monitoring work in the Faculty (walks)
  • 28/11 Monitoring work in the Faculty ( b data)
  • 16/1 Showcasing the Faculty (reviews/Ofsted)
  • 24/4 Beyond the Faculty (working with other HoFs/curriculum leads)
  • 5/6 Beyond the Faculty (working with Governors, becoming a senior leader)
  • 3/7 Review of Learning; what next?

The Westfield Way

The Westfield Way is fundamental for our embedding of a safe, challenging environment for all our students.
So, here are the key principles and procedures for all our lessons…



Every school is a unique environment, and that concoction is often what gets under our skin, and us up in the morning. In setting out our core procedures, we wanted to establish a set of expectations for the classroom, and specifically for the new build, based on what we know about our students and how they learn best.

We make no apology for this, some are very much old school, and they are what we believe in and have found to be conducive for successful learning. Our CPD goes hand-in-hand with these expectations so we ensure that staff are supported in driving them.

So without further ado…

wp_20161126_08_46_09_pro The way in…

The Westfield Way

  1. Meet, Great and Learn

Teachers meet their classes, 1 foot in 1 foot out. Pupils stand behind their chairs, based on the class seating plan and take out equipment and Planners. A Hook should be visible and…

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