Being a magpie teacher

Claire Doherty

Claire Doherty has been a teacher for 15 years and this year appointed as Lead Learning Coach at Cowes Enterprise College. She has had experience of being a Subject Lead of RS, Psychology and SEN. Claire has taught in Scotland and New Zealand and she loves learning about learning.  

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I have never had an original idea of my own, but that hasn't stopped me from magpieing ideas from other people to use in my classroom. I am a millennium teacher, in that I qualified in the year 2000. I’m also lucky enough to love my job and the challenge of teaching Religious Studies… I mean, if you think about it, most people remember their schooling of RS. I certainly do, and it involved distracting the teacher as much as possible through getting them to tell inane stories about their own beliefs / children / views on (insert your own choice here!).

"When businesses use each other’s ideas it’s called ‘collaboration'"

I think it was my subject alone that started me on the road to becoming a magpie. When I started the resources were not inspiring and were very floral… you know exactly what I mean here! In education you may come across those that don't like sharing resources, squirrel away their ideas, and turn their noses up at the thought of sharing! When businesses use each other’s ideas it’s called ‘collaboration’, and as one saying goes, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel! I would say to those people, if using someone else’s ideas to improve your teaching in the classroom gives you the confidence to grow and share with others, then go for it! Don't get me wrong; I always credit the original person, as it’s important that you don’t pass yourself off as an expert when all you’ve done is ‘borrow’ someone else’s genius. I have an appetite for taking a topic and finding something to craft into an exciting learning opportunity, it’s either that or my addiction! The magpie, to coin a phrase, is how I have kept my enthusiasm as a teacher for all of this time.

If you are lucky enough to be embarking on your teaching career today, there are so many people to inspire you. My use of Twitter has revolutionized the way I continue to improve. One search right now will give you Poundland pedagogy and a huge range of ideas from different sources. Hywel Roberts, Lisa Jane Ashes and Zoe Elder are a few of many educators that inspire me; their enthusiasm makes me want to be that bit better every day, and their generosity with their ideas and experiences mean I can continue to evolve as a better teacher.

Hywel talks about a “learning hook” in his first book, and the use of images to get students thinking. Using images in my classroom has resulted in my students asking so many questions; for example, the famous picture of the self immolation of Thích Quảng Đức was used as a starter to my lesson on pacifism this week.

"The latest thing I am working on is RAG123, which I found from Kev Lister."

Lisa Jane Ashes and her thought bombs have been fantastic. Using balls that you find in ball pits up and down the country in children’s play areas (going cheap in Poundland) to introduce key ideas, or to reflect on a moral issue by using questioning in a thought bomb thrown around the classroom, has really helped to increase the engagement of my students. Ron Berger inspired me to get my students to organise an evening of Philosophy. This involved sharing their year’s worth of learning with their family and friends; to my pleasure another teacher across the country was inspired to have a go themselves.

Zoe Elder’s marginal gains have been amazing to explain to parents how to support their children’s learning at home. The latest thing I am working on is RAG123, which I found from Kev Lister. So far, this has had a really positive impact on marking and feedback in my classroom and I’m loving the dialogue of learning this has created with my students. I am marking more, yet it feels like it is taking less time. He has some fabulous blogs on the subject, have a look!

Something else got me thinking as well. If we don't use each others ideas, if we stop sharing and wanting to improve, what then? What will education become? So get out there, read, use ideas and collaborate with others, because if we inspire each other to have the confidence to grow as teachers, then the world is ours to magpie.

From whom have you magpied? Share ideas and give credit below!

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"