Why we teach

I often think that we forget. The world is a busy place and we are busy people.At this point in time we are under the microscope. We are under investigation. Why are the children not learning? Why are their test scores not as high as Finland’s?

We huddle together for warmth and for protection from the outside storm. The government is against us, the media is against us and , it seems, the parents do not understand what we are trying to do.

The last two days I have been at a training course. It is about a scheme called “Impact Learning”. I went along to find out what it was all about. It turned out that it was exactly what it said on the tin.. it was about making sure that we turned our students into the best learners that they could be.

It was held at a small Primary school in Basildon, Essex. This school has embraced this learning wholeheartedly and they have posters on their walls and they are even painting pathways in their hall made of footprints which they are going to promote as a means to let the children know that they can become anything they want in life… just what skills will they need to be an accountant, a baker, a teacher, a car mechanic or a university professor.

The main emphasis of the scheme is the promotion of “a learning community”. The people on the course were teachers, a consultant (me), three parents and one grandmother.

It was wonderful working with the parents (and the grandmother). They had been brought in to explain how they could support their children’s learners. In this course they were learners along with the rest of us.

We spent two days learning what it was to be in a learning community and building children’s confidence that they could achieve and indeed if they were “in the learning zone” they were capable of learning and achieving much more than any of them may ever have thought possible

We heard stories from the parents about the problems they had had as students. That they had found schooling difficult and had not seen any point to it. They felt though that they would come along to find out what this “learning business” was all about and they had become hooked.

One of them, a young mother with two children at the school was here as an expert in the programme. She had been before and knew all about the 44 sounds of the English language. She took pleasure in telling us about digraphs and trigraphs and spent a few minutes at lunch yesterday teaching me about a split digraph and how it must be called that and not the “magic e” that I had mistakenly taught children for too many years.

Today we had a lively discussion about the teaching of “specialised language” in mathematics. I brought to everyone’s attention that teachers should use the term “vertex” and its plural “vertices” when talking about edges meeting together on a shape and not use the term “corners”. The male parent who was with us approached me after wards and said that he had never even heard of the term “vertex” before but he had learnt something today and would be going away to look it up.

The best moment was when the grandmother spoke. She told us that she had not been to school beyond the age of ten because her parents had not let her. She had found it very hard coming into the classroom but she had learnt so much about sounds and letters and spelling. She said at one point that she knew she was “a bit of a dunce” at which point we stopped her and said that she was not a “dunce” in any way and that she was a learner along with the rest of us!

I have been to more training courses than I care to remember but this was the first one I had been to that almost left me in tears. At the end of the course the presenter gave out a testament about the programme from a grandparent of one of the pupils at the secondary school which I am working to support at the moment and which was the reason that I had attended the training.

The grandfather is currently looking after his Year 7 (grade 6) grandchild because the parents have split up. When he arrived he was a sullen individual who was a “slow learner” and was often in trouble at school. In the testament he stated that, since the child had been on this programme he has been a changed person. He now has confidence in himself and has been looking up complex words. He has become fascinated by research and will spend time trying to read books or look things up on the internet.

One day they went into the kitchen and found him reading the label of a detergent bottle. There were words on the label that he previously could not read and would not have been interested in finding out about anyway. The boy’s mother was visiting that day. She mouthed the words “oh my God!” as she saw her son doing something that she never thought she would ever see. Both she and her father went into the adjoining room and proceeded to sob… it was a moment when they realised that their son really could escape from the problems that had beset his life.

I went away from this course remembering why I had come into teaching in the first place. I wanted to improve children’s lives and make them better people with a bright future.

I got into my car, came home and wrote this blog while it was still fresh in my memory and I could still feel the excitement and the emotion. If you are a teacher reading this I hope it may remind you of why you do just what you do and why you are valuable and important.

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One thought on “Why we teach

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog. It helped me reflect on ways or things to help motivate the unmotivated student. We have to find ways to help students improve their self-efficacy and begin to enjoy school. Making learning fun and enjoyable are ways to motivate the struggling student. Therefore, I am constantly searching for new ideas.

    I appreciate you for what you do for our students and hope to continue blogging with you throughout the school year.

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