10 Steps Guaranteed To Get Your Class Buzzing! – Words by Dr. Andy Cope

Dr.Andy Cope – happiness expert, positive psychologist and author of The Art of Being Brilliant


Bagpuss turned 50 this year. To the uninitiated, Bagpuss was a saggy old toy cloth cat that starred in a much-loved children’s TV programme. Each episode, Emily the shop owner would leave, the lights would go out, and Bagpuss and friends would awaken and have some fun.


Teaching works in a similar way, although the real fun happens when the lights go on. Lightbulb moments can sometimes feel a bit thin on the ground, these days, so we’ve got 10 tips to help bring teaching to life.


  1. Before any learning takes place your pupils will be asking themselves two subconscious questions: ‘Am I safe?’, and ‘Am I loved?’ If they can tick yes to both, then learning can begin. So create a safe space where it’s okay to fail. And care about your students. I mean, really care!


  1. Teaching and learning go hand in hand, which means so do teachers and learners. If we want vibrant, positive engaged learners, we need vibrant positive engaging teachers. Taking care of yourself is therefore the least selfish thing you will ever do. Eat, move and sleep in healthy measures.


  1. Fact: however broad and balanced your curriculum, it’ll be outdated sooner than you think. Ringfence a slice of your timetable for ‘prospecting’. Let children explore what’s out there, what they enjoy, and maybe even what they’re good at. The best way to prepare young people for the future is to look forwards.


  1. All learning takes place in the ‘liminal space,’ the place between the familiar and unknown. Classrooms have reading corners, so why not create an Uncomfort Zone – a physical place where children can go and take a risk with their learning.


  1. Take a break. Enjoy your lunch. The staffroom is often the emptiest at dinnertime. I get why, but the honest truth is that trying to get to the end of that to-do list is impossible. There’s always something more that could be done. Teaching is a team game, and a halftime huddle is essential.


  1. Mind your language! You should be 8 times more positive than you are negative. That means you have to counteract every grumble with 8 catching the kids doing things right, 8 laughs, 8 small wins, 8 smiles…


  1. Nail the first 4 minutes. Human emotions are contagious. If you can be positive, present and confident for 4 minutes, other people will ‘catch’ the uplift. Raise your game for the first 4 minutes of every lesson, every time you come into the staffroom, when you go home in the evening, etc.


  1. Do less, BE more. Instead of racing through the day, hellbent on getting everything ticked of your to-do list, pause to reflect on your ‘to-BE’ list. Here’s a powerful question to ponder (for you and your learners): who am I being while I’m doing those things on my list?


  1. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Yes, there are targets to be met and grades to be achieved but learning lands more effectively when it (and the teacher) is fun!
  2. According to official government figures almost 10% of the teaching workforce left last year. Which, of course, means the overwhelming majority chose to stay. The headline news is no different in education to anywhere else; it’s invariably bad. But the real story is far more positive. The Japanese initiated a practice called Kaizen, a way of cultivating positive momentum. Finish every day by asking your class what went well and tomorrow bodes better.


There were only ever 13 episodes made of Bagpuss. In 1999 it topped a BBC poll for most popular children’s programme. Childhood is special. Everyone remembers those special moments and special people that make it so. Thank you for being one of them. Here’s to the next episode.


Dr Andy Cope is a happiness expert, positive psychologist and author of The Art of Being Brilliant and Will Hessey is an author and speaker at The Art of Brilliance