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Those aren’t just two random quotes plucked out of Jim Smith’s new book and shoved in a similar font. They’re weren’t chosen for their wit or pithiness and they weren’t chosen to grab your attention.

(If we’d wanted to do that, we’d have chosen this gem:

Context is everything — read the book, folks!)

No, the reason why we chose those two quotes is that they sum up the ‘Lazy Teacher’ concept in a nutshell. Less formal teaching from the front means more time for learning in the rest of the classroom. The more we take the focus off ourselves, the more pupil learning will be where it’s supposed to be – the centre of the lesson.

‘Whole school progress – the LAZY way’ (or is it ‘Follow me, I’m right behind you’? The front cover is slightly ambiguous) is the sequel to Jim Smith’s popular ‘Lazy Teacher’s Handbook’. The premise of both books is that the best learning is pupil-generated and that if we stopped teaching more, our pupils might well learn more.

As an aside, it’s always amused us to think there must be some people who bought the ‘Lazy Teacher’s Handbook’ and were disappointed to find it wasn’t quite what they’d hoped! It must have been the case — there were certainly people who took the lazy term the wrong way and didn’t quite ‘get it’.

If, like us, you enjoy being challenged and to think in new ways, you’ll find ‘Whole school progress – the LAZY way’ is a provocative read.

Not provocative like poking a tiger with a big stick (although the author apparently managed to stir up the beast in ‘Irate of Bucks’ with his first book), ‘WSP-TLW’ is nudge-you-in-the-right-direction-provocative. It’ll gently challenge you to question your teaching methods and point you towards some alternatives that involve a little less of you and a lot more of the little people who are supposed to be doing the work in your classroom.

‘Whole school progress – the LAZY way’ is about progress – how to create it, how to capture it, how to show it off and how to institutionalise it (if all schools read the section on ‘The Lazy Way to lead meetings and make progress’, the world would surely be a happier place!). Jim Smith provides an abundance of lively ideas to help your pupils move on in their learning and do so as independently as possible.

Here are three questions in particular that jumped out at us…

In a couple of the most thought-provoking pages in the book, Jim Smith outlines what makes really good progress checking in a lesson. Leaving it until the plenary? Unsatisfactory. Performing a whole-class ritual (like traffic lights or thumbs up/down)? Only just satisfactory. Wow. Be honest — how often have you, at some point or other, relied on those methods thinking they were good practice? Thankfully, ‘WSP-TLW’ provides lots of alternatives.

…because if you don’t, then learning progress during a typical lesson is going to be very stop-start. If your standard response is something along the lines of “OK, I’ll come across now…” then you’ll be pleasantly liberated by the effective strategies suggested (“Well, imagine you were someone who was not stuck — what would they do?” is a particular favourite!).

That’s nudge the Status Quo. Nudging Status Quo might upset their rhythm. One of our favourite passages in the book is when Jim Smith challenges the structure, content and timing of meetings to get more progress. He suggests that if something doesn’t work in a lesson situation, we change it — so we should with meetings. If you’re not brave enough to challenge the status quo, just buy a copy for your boss with a bookmark at p.116. “If a particular individual is genuinely not needed at a certain meeting, then simply let them get on with something else, something that will improve learning”. Superb advice.

Contrary to what Irate of Bucks will no doubt have to say on the matter, ‘Whole school progress – the LAZY way’ is actually for hard-working, professional teachers who want to see their pupils make progress. It just so happens that the best way to facilitate this is to get out of the way.

Jim Smith writes with humour, with Les Evans’ cartoons once again providing a witty backdrop (Don’t tell anyone, but we’ve always thought the design of these books reminds us of those swimming pool posters… You know the ones? “Will patrons kindly refrain from…” Must be the B&W cartoons and red bubble writing. Either that, or we’re going ever-so slightly potty).

Activity titles such as…

…should whet your appetite for the sorts of progress-enhancing ideas Jim Smith has to offer. We would explain what they all refer to, but that sounds like too much effort. This lazy thing is easier than it sounds.

Oh, and apparently it’ll help you plan a lesson in less than three minutes.


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