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From the Publisher
Reviewed by Alistair Smith, learning consultant and author.
It’s no accident that Hywel Roberts himself a world leader in enthusiasm has written a must read book for teachers. Oops! Helping children learn accidentally brings together insight, pizzazz, wit and quirkiness into one happy place, it’s a joy of a book written by a great teacher. Easy to read, practical, full of great ideas and invention it’s more than a book, it’s a treatise on positivity and a reminder of why it’s great to be a teacher.
Reviewed by Susan Coates, St Gregory's RC Primary School, South Shields.
Reading Hywel’s book has been a pleasure. As a primary teacher for over twenty years, with the additional role of ‘Creativity Coordinator’ tagged on for good measure, I was ‘hooked’ by the first sentence of the foreword: ‘Good teachers are great liars’! I immediately wanted to know more, and especially as I’ve been lucky enough to hear Hywel present training to teachers, the ‘preferably read it with a Barnsley accent’ had me intrigued.
The last thing I need is book about teaching theory; no busy teacher needs that. We get enough theory and hoops to jump through from senior management, Government initiatives and the continual pressure of the inspectors arriving to give ourselves more reading for reading’s sake. Hywel’s book is not like that. Yes, it contains theory, it talks about learning and child-centredness but it is also inspiring, easy to read and is filled to the rafters with practical application; things I can steal and adapt for my learners and for me; things that actually work and will invigorate my teaching practice without it once making me doubt my own ability. Things that have made me go ‘hmmmm?!’.
As I read through the book (literally from cover to cover) I was struck by the cleverness of the ‘Lists’. Hywel writes lists and bullet points throughout. ‘Top 10s’ and ‘Top 5s’, Lists of the Bests and the Worsts, Things-to-do, Things-not-to-do, bullet-pointed action points and superb summing-ups. All of these appeal to me, and are RELEVANT. Relevance is a recurring theme. The book contains simple, effective illustrations, brilliant ‘sliding scales’ to provoke thought and reflection on who and where I am as a teacher and I acknowledge to myself now that I will be recommending Hywel’s book to so many of my colleagues: from students and NQTs who will absorb and adapt the suggestions without resistance, to the older switched-off colleagues who have arrived at the point of forgetting what the point is in being the teacher and lead learner. The book offers something for everyone engaged in education, whether that engagement is currently active or not. It is for those of us who love teaching and are instinctively creative in what we do but always want to be better at it. It is also, most importantly, for those who are not sure how to be creative, or how to liven the classroom and the learning for which we are responsible. And for those who may have accidentally switched to standby, waiting for something or someone to reactivate them, this is that switch.
I would regard myself as BRAVE (read the book to find out what Hywel means by this) but I will go back to this for inspiration and to refresh my teaching over and over. I would like to thank Hywel on behalf of my future pupils, who will undoubtedly pass through my classes and accidently learn more than they would have if I had not read this book.
Reviewed by Mick Waters, Professor of Education at Wolverhampton University.
Learning is natural; sometimes it gets difficult and then the learner gets stuck. When we get stuck we need a teacher who makes it feel natural to want to get learning again. Hywel Roberts is one of these. In real life he is a teacher who finds the way to open doors, include the loner, create the hook or dilemma that cannot be side-stepped the sort of teacher who entices the learner and reduces resistance.
His book talks with the reader, the teacher who wants to think again about how they are in the classroom, around the school and in the staffroom. The stream of ideas for engaging with pupils and making learning live are supported by a down-to-earth conversation about how it really is in the day-to-day life of the school. It makes you smile, wince, laugh, and ponder and most of all think: think how enjoyable teaching can be if we invest in ourselves as teachers.
Open it anywhere it is full of gems.
Reviewed by Ruth Saxton Primary School Teacher and Chair for NATD.
As someone who struggles to finish educational literature, I knew I was onto a winner early on when Morrissey and Jaws' Chief Brody were key references.
This book had Hywel Roberts' inspirational stamp of wit and infectious enthusiasm running right through its core; I read the whole book with a huge grin on my face, often laughing out loud or whispering, ‘Aw, I love that!’ I felt like I had been let in on his secret and I had - it's a mindset, not a technique. Where else would you be instructed to ensure that 'Happiness' was in your curriculum?
Hywel's emphasis on connecting at a human level ensures children have a relevant and memorable experience with a real person, whom he encourages to be brave and embrace the unexpected and in turn empower pupils to question and steer their own learning. It's so steeped in common sense that you can't disagree with it!
The novel illustrations, acronyms and lists really made me chuckle; I promise to now 'embrace the emo kid'. The subtle reinterpretations of popular sayings kept me on my toes, although my mind didn't wander once. What would take many people half a page to say, Hywel encapsulates in one word or drawing. I have come away with a whole new vocabulary to tap me on the shoulder as I plan and teach, to remind me of my purpose and keep me on track.
Rather than lesson plans and schemes of work, there are inspiring anecdotes from all phases, so there are no 'get outs'; he has succeeded at luring children of all ages and backgrounds into actively learning.
As I read, not only did I constantly reflect on my own 'botheredness' but kept adding to the internal list I was forming of people to buy this for. At a time in my career when I am filled with self-doubt and fear, this book is like a magic medicine that reminds me why I became a teacher and empowers me to buy a stack of sticky notes and fat pens and start 'digging', 'luring' and 'raving' in my own classroom on Monday morning.
In short, it's BLUMMIN' BRILLIANT!
Reviewed by Richard Kieran, Headteacher, Woodrow First School.
Oops! must be essential reading for student teachers. It is a dossier for practical teaching and describes the pedagogy of 'the buzzing'. Hywel Roberts offers a book that is a filled to capacity with drama-led ideas that are far from a performance and without a leotard in sight. I am buying a copy for each of the team at school.
Reviewed by Luke Abbott, Director of Mantle of the Expert.
There can be little doubt that the new book Hywel has written is tantalising, and so useful for the new teacher. It will, I am sure, stand alongside iconic publications that hit the 'common touch' as the truth is so sharp in the contexts he writes and explores.
Hywel has, at long last, launched a war on the ‘drains’, i.e. those mis-named teachers who glory in pouring toxic substances all over anything 'child centred' in schooling, and shrieks like a Greek Siren the awful warning that to ignore the drawing power of these malice makers means professional death.
I liked the text a lot as it reminded me of all the wonderful moments in my teaching career the fun, the joy of working with spotty youth, the challenges of facing the classes almost impossible to teach and finding a way to get through.
We hear the voice of a true pioneer, clear and sure in the belief that teaching is an amalgam of so many things beyond 'subject knowledge'. The book races along at an almost breathless speed just like the writer.
I am envious that this book has been written so well and captures so much.
In all the showers of experience that Hywel brings the reader, we see a humility born out of experience and a deep knowing of young people. We also know that the book has been written from first-hand experience so rare in today’s awful target-driven texts. Hywel has much experience in an area of woeful economic deprivation after the closure of the steel industry, as well as the deepening depression occurring in the north.
But no ‘doom and gloom’ indulgences are allowed. We are reminded of the continuing professional responsibility of bringing learning to life and we keep getting very clear guidance for newcomers as well as reminders for us oldies of how we have to keep vigilant to make our teaching count.
My only regrets reading the book concerned the overplaying of words regarding a boy who was described 'a badun'. Perhaps the Romantic in me gets affronted by the truth that has to be ignored?
Reviewed by Phil Beadle, Teacher, education consultant and author.
Educators! Look to your laurels! There’s a hip, young(ish) gunslinger coming at ya straight outta Barnsley, and he’s gonna change the way you think! Hywel Roberts is a magpie’s intellect writing like a man with two brains on a heavyweight jag of a particularly garrulous amphetamine. His message is that engagement is the message and in delivering it he’s sharp, he’s intellectually underpinned, he’s effervescent, he’s the teacher you wished your teachers had seen teach.
In Oops! Helping Children Learn Accidentally he’s produced a cornucopic (I know it doesn’t exist it should) antidote to cynicism; a call to arms. It’s part memoir, part guide, part surreal series of disembodied lists, part methodology for being the kind of maverick who gets better results than anyone else and that the kids like better than they like you (!) Read it, shed your teaching skin, and there’ll be no danger that you’ll ever, ever become what Hywel memorably calls, ‘A monkey. A puppet. A monkey puppet.’
Reviewed by Jamie Portman Assistant Headteacher Campsmount Technology College.
A book of happy accidents and improvisations that would be a lovely addition to any teacher's bookshelf ...
Ian McMillan, poet, broadcaster and comedian.
Oops! is about principles. It’s about a mentality that encourages us to drop the reins of rigid, boring schemes of work and instead create learning that is exciting and relevant! Via practical ideas, anecdote and dry wit, Roberts' magnificent work dares us to believe that we can make it so.
Reviewed by Diane Heritage, Deputy Lead Associate, North of England National College.
Quirky, creative and personable, Hywel is a gifted teacher with a passion for enabling others. In this gem of a book he shares his passion for captivating children through memorable learning experiences. If you want the children in your school to make great progress and remember you as a teacher who made learning fun, dip into this book for inspiration and ideas.
Reviewed by Dave Whitaker, Executive Deputy Headteacher, Springwell Community School.
At last there is a book to cover all bases. Whether you are a student teacher, NQT or school leader, this is a genuine guide to push your own practice. Do you want to be an outstanding teacher? Do you want to lead an outstanding school? Read this book and your life will be a whole load easier. I’d like to think that all the ‘Drains’ who sit in staffrooms throughout the country will soon be reading this book in their PPA time instead of perusing the tabloid press or playing chess!
Hywel Roberts combines his knowledge of cutting-edge pedagogy with humour and genuine experience to provide an unpretentious guide to teaching. Reading this book made me laugh.