One of my most popular posts was written about school leadership, what type of leader are you? I follow @ImpactWales and they tweeted about a blog that discussed in many ways the role of the teacher,
The notion that students will learn more if they have more control over what they learn isn’t supported by research: https://t.co/fDdZyk5Di8 by @anniemurphypaul
It caught my interest because I firmly believe that teaching is more than one technique and it started me thinking about what type of teacher I was and am. One of the greatest pleasures as a Headteacher, is the opportunity to teach. With all the expectations on our shoulders, it is nice to remind yourself why you entered the profession.
From my very first lesson, the importance of planning was an expectation. What I have learnt over the years is that lessons require an element of flexibility, you need to be able to adapt and develop as the lesson progresses. The worst lessons I taught were over prepared, over thought and didn’t allow for any adaptations. My best lessons involved the ability to change direction in order to maintain the engagement of the pupils. To describe this simply, I plan for the skills which then allows for an element of flexibility.
2) Involving the Pupils
I think that pupils enjoy a lesson when they are actively involved in certain aspects e.g. assessment for learning tools are an excellent means of involving pupil interaction and develops thinking skills. A KWD grid, diamond ranking or simply effective questioning, can allow for the pupils to become an integral part of the lesson. This does not imply that they can choose the lesson but it does imply that they can lead the direction of a lesson on occasions. For example, if we are beginning a topic, then it is important to discover what they already know in order to move forward. A mind map used as an assessment tool is an excellent means of recording what they know and at the end of a topic by using a different colour they can complete the map by demonstrating what they have learnt.
Rightly or wrongly I believe that we shouldn’t always change what works because it isn’t in fashion. My first mentor said many years ago,
“In education, learn to stand still as the wheels turn around you. What was once in fashion comes and goes as the wheel turns.”
This has proven to be very true.
I believe that a well behaved class is crucial to learning and that the teacher is the role model that sets the standards for the class. If you feel the need to shout all the time then a teacher needs to ask the question, why?
Rote learning e.g. times tables, sentence construction etc still has a role to play in the modern classroom. You can make it fun but ultimately the skill is the same. To learn by rote does have its place.
The basics are crucial to success and that is why I believe that they must be taught and therefore led by the teacher.
A teacher needs to be many things during the day but one of the key roles can be to become a learner again. Enjoy the thrill of learning with the pupils when discovering new ideas. The pupils take great joy in sharing their discoveries with you.
To teach is a privilege and when we can make teaching fun it can be an exhilarating experience.
You can’t be funny all if the time however I have found that a relaxed class of pupils are more prepared to work.
There are some lessons that become brilliant and it is often difficult to define why.
One of my greatest memories as a teacher was to invite a Grandmother of a pupil in my class to discuss her experience as an evacuee. I’m not ashamed to say that I shed a tear as did the majority of the pupils as we listened to a very personal account of the Second World War.
This took the focus of the learning to a whole new direction.
Real experiences, trips and artefacts are fantastic at developing and promoting pupil’s learning.
6) Empathy to others.
I believe that the best teachers really do care. If they show empathy to the children, are willing to listen and share ideas, then very often this can create an excellent learning environment. It is the ability to encourage pupils that not only are they safe but they can make mistakes, take risks and realise that they will be supported on this journey. Many children need self confidence and it still amazes me how a sticker or a kind word from a Headteacher can really make a difference to the life of a child and this is also true for all teachers.
7) To be a learning teacher.
The above is my jargon for saying, to accept criticism or judgements, think how you can improve but do not focus on the negatives when positives have also been shared. Nobody knows everything and a good teacher is constantly adapting to the needs of the class without ignoring the solid foundations on which the class has been built.
Criticism can be difficult to accept but I have learned that although I might not accept every point I can take on board the ideas that seem appropriate and very often it has improved my teaching.
I’m sure many people would disagree or adapt the above but this is simply a reflection on what I believe has helped me in my career.
Ultimately, I actually believe the best teachers use a variety of techniques and some have an x factor that is difficult to define however it is important to be comfortable and secure in your teaching as you work with the pupils. We can often learn from sharing ideas with others and also by remembering what you are good at.
Be confident and no matter what the external pressures might be remember each child deserves the best and the difference might be you!