The Little-Known Secret to Being a Brilliant Teacher

Withitness: The Secret to Being Brilliant

We garner a great deal of information in our teacher training - effective planning, teaching the progression of skills, assessing learning, safeguarding, behaviour management, and so much more. There is, however, one skill they never teach you. It's called withitness (with-it-ness), and it's vital if you want to be a brilliant teacher.

What's withitness and why haven't I heard of it?

The term was coined in the 1970s by Jacob Kounin and describes one's ability to "have eyes in the back of their head." It's the uncanny ability to know what's happening in your classroom at all times.

When it comes to working with kids, you're with it; you just get it.

What does it look like in my classroom?

Here are a few ways you show (or can show) you have withitness.

  • You keep kids interested because you know "boredom leads to behaviour"

  • You can predict and plan when and where some of your students might find it difficult

  • You address, with ease, some of your students when they are casually distracting each other

  • You know what's happening with your class at all times (or at least the kids think you know!)

  • You effectively deal with a child or group of children yet can still keep an eye on the rest of your class

  • You know when you need to move an activity/lesson on or drop it completely

  • You intervene before minor behaviours have a chance to escalate

  • You make your lesson more enticing than misbehaving

The list above is not exhaustive but I hope it paints a clearer picture of teacher/parent withitness.

Can withitness be taught?

Honestly, I don't know if it can be taught, but like any skill or ability it can certainly be developed.

Find out what works and do more of it.

Find out what doesn't work and do less of it. Observe other teachers in your school whom you admire and make mental notes about what they do well... then DO IT!

If you're like me, you'll get it wrong, but over time you will end up getting it right more often than not.

This is lifelong learning.