Testing the waters

Posted in Articles

Criticism is not something that we humans like but this helps post from Ann Friedman helps sort out the relevance.


In my ongoing quest for the perfect framework for understanding haters, I created The Disapproval Matrix**. (With a deep bow to its inspiration.) This is one way to separate haterade from productive feedback. Here’s how the quadrants break down:

Critics: These are smart people who know something about your field. They are taking a hard look at your work and are not loving it. You’ll probably want to listen to what they have to say, and make some adjustments to your work based on their thoughtful comments.

Lovers: These people are invested in you and are also giving you negative but rational feedback because they want you to improve. Listen to them, too.

Frenemies: Ooooh, this quadrant is tricky. These people really know how to hurt you, because they know you personally or know your work pretty well. But at the end of the day, their criticism is not actually about your work—it’s about you personally. And they aren’t actually interested in a productive conversation that will result in you becoming better at what you do. They just wanna undermine you. Dishonorable mention goes to The Hater Within, aka the irrational voice inside you that says you suck, which usually falls into this quadrant. Tell all of these fools to sit down and shut up.

Haters: This is your garden-variety, often anonymous troll who wants to tear down everything about you for no rational reason. Folks in this quadrant are easy to write off because they’re counterproductive and you don’t even know them. Ignore! Engaging won’t make you any better at what you do. And then rest easy, because having haters is proof your work is finding a wide audience and is sparking conversation. Own it.

The general rule of thumb? When you receive negative feedback that falls into one of the top two quadrants—from experts or people who care about you who are engaging with and rationally critiquing your work—you should probably take their comments to heart. When you receive negative feedback that falls into the bottom two quadrants, you should just let it roll off your back and just keep doin’ you. If you need to amp yourself up about it, may I suggest this #BYEHATER playlist on Spotify? You’re welcome.

** I presented The Disapproval Matrix to the fine folks at MoxieCon in Chicago yesterday, and they seemed to find it useful, so I figured I’d share with the class. It was originally inspired by a question my friend Channing Kennedy submitted to my #Realtalk column at the Columbia Journalism Review.

More brilliant resources for PSHE & mental health

Posted in Uncategorized

Another great set of resources from Dr Pooky Knightsmith to support your work with the students on areas of PSHE and mental health.



Before you break up for the summer holidays, there are a few new resources, blog posts and book recommendations I wanted to draw your attention to which you might want to bookmark for next term.

I hope you find them useful.  Thank you to all of you who have welcomed me to your school or organisation – I’ve taught over 10,000 people about mental health this year – so I’m looking forward to the summer holidays!  Thank you for your continued hard work, improving the lives of young people.  As ever, let me know how I can better support you in your work.

Guidance and Policies

Support and Advice


Guest Blog Posts


Books and Resources


Upcoming Events

I hope you find these resources useful. If you’d like me to train your staff or deliver a parent workshop, I’m currently booked up until January but I’m happy to hold provisional dates for later in the year – please email my PA [email protected] to discuss availability.

I hope you have a fantastic summer. Remember, you need to look after your own wellbeing before you look after everyone else’s so I hope you have some good R&R planned for the coming weeks.

Very best wishes,


Motivating students

Posted in Articles, Resource Centre

How do you make sure your students are engaged for every lesson and not just special ones? The folks over at Creative Education have some suggestions:

Motivating students for one lesson is a challenge – keeping them continually motivated is an even bigger one, but if we invest the time, effort and energy into developing lessons that sustain student motivation week after week, we find that students both enjoy and achieve more. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

1. Provide a real life contextsustaining-student-motivation
Nothing is less motivating to your typical adolescent, than thinking that what they are learning is completely pointless – and it’s easy to understand why. If we provide a purpose to learning and can help students to understand how it might be relevant and useful to them, they will be instantly more motivated. Try to think about this as you plan your lessons. Imagine a disaffected student peering over your shoulder asking ‘what’s the point?’

Try to answer the questions:

  • Why is this skill, knowledge or understanding useful?
  • How could it be generally applied?
  • What is a specific, example that sets it in context?

The easiest way to do this is to build case studies or vignettes into our teaching so that students can see the new skills or knowledge they’re learning in action.

2. Don’t teach in silos
As well as helping students to understand how they’ll use their new-found knowledge and skills in real life, it’s also important for them to understand where their new learning sits within the curriculum. Being able to see how each lesson builds on the last and seeing that each lesson forms part of a larger whole is far more motivating than the feeling of learning lots of disparate skills and developing discrete pockets of knowledge.

3. Make visible progress
We all find being good at things motivating. Success is, in and of itself, rewarding – so make sure that when you plan your lessons, you design them in such a way that progress will be possible, clearly defined and acknowledged. When students can see themselves making progress they are often motivated to continue working towards the next target.

4. Create challenging targets
However, it’s important that your targets aren’t too easy. A prize too easily won doesn’t feel like a prize at all and learners will rapidly disengage. Of course, different learners work at different levels and paces so it’s important to ensure that your lessons are efficiently differentiated to allow for your most and least able learners as well as providing plenty of challenge and opportunities for success for middle learners too.

5. Use peer led learning
Student led learning can prove motivating both for the student doing the teaching and for their pupil. Being taught in a new way, in our own words by a peer can help to reenergise us and reframe difficult subjects whilst the student-teacher is provided with a great ego boost and a chance to consolidate their learning.

6. Invite and act on their feedback
Students are well-placed to explore and explain what would make their lessons more engaging. Whilst the content we cover may be largely constrained by the curriculum, how long we choose to focus on each area, or the ways in which we teach and learn are a little more open to negotiation. Enabling students to voice their opinions about this and actually responding to the wants and needs of the class, within reason, can help to ensure that they really buy into your lessons.

Motivating our students isn’t a one off thing, it’s something that needs to be built into every scheme of work we write and every lesson we plan. I hope the ideas shared here provide some food for thought.

Using Distancing Techniques in PSHE

Posted in Resource Centre

This post from Lynne Deacon & shared by Creative Education is really helpful in minimising those tricky moments that arise in PSHE sessions with students

Teaching some of the topics in the PSHE curriculum can be tricky, even awkward and, not to put too fine a point on it, just plain embarrassing. Some experienced teachers can handle it all without any problem. But what about those who find it more of a challenge? And more importantly, what about the pupils?

Of course, the clue is there in the name: the P stands for Personal! For them, almost any topic has the potential to be sensitive – relationships, health, family, financial matters, expressing an opinion, speaking out in front of their peers – the list is almost endless.

So what learning strategies can we use to encourage more open discussion whilst at the same time giving some protection to the feelings of both pupils and teachers?

Distancing techniques depersonalise the situations under discussion. Being in a role, empathising with a character or speaking in response to the actions of others (real or imaginary) allows pupils to explore their feelings about issues safely, because they are not speaking or acting as themselves.

Distancing also helps pupils learn and then reflect on how it applies to their own lives. Different learning styles are accommodated. Pupils who struggle with written work often come into their own when given the chance to take on roles or to respond to scenarios. Teachers can also be less anxious about the possibility of upsetting pupils, unexpected disclosures or inappropriate comments. Continue reading