Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Teaching, Jim, but not as we know it.

I was chatting at the shallow end this morning - we have an excellent pool in Dunoon - with the former heidie of one of the local primary schools. The sun was lighting up the green water inside and the blue water of the Clyde outside, and we agreed that it was wonderful not to be in school on such a day - for today was the first day of term here. But it struck me that I'd just spent a weekend using the skills I'd accumulated over all these years in the classroom - skills that I never thought about, but which non-teachers seem to find impressive; skills such as being able to command a room without speaking, see what is happening in one corner while apparently looking in another, engage with a roomful of people confidently.

Do we ever consider these attributes, I wonder, while we're being called to exercise them day in , day out? I don't know that I did - there was so much going on, and latterly we tended to engage in other forms of interaction with pupils and in fact might not have been up there in front as often as in the past. But I have to say that it's the old-fashioned leading from the front that is most useful in life beyond school, and as I stepped up (being a bit of a short-arse, I had to use a step) to the lectern for the first time in that conference room I felt quite a frisson of enjoyment - and of recognition. But there was another aspect to enjoy. There was no-one trying to stick a pencil into their neighbour, and no-one writing obscenities in their jotter. Everyone was looking at me with every appearance of wanting to hear what I was going to say.

And there wasn't a spit-ball in sight.


  1. Anonymous6:07 PM

    Yes I know that prickly feeling of being in front of a roomful of people who hang on your every word - I get it when I teach in ante-natal classes.

    The thing is that really in these circumstances I want them to be interacting with each other much more often than sitting listening to me. But they are mostly used to the style of education where they listen, maybe take notes and then sit the test at the end to prove they were listening. Unfortunately childbirth, breastfeeding and early parenthood aren't really like that! Sadly, some do persevere with this approach, and judge themselves very harshly because of it.

    But as you say, after working with children, keeping track of several adult groups engaged with an activity is a skoosh.

  2. Anonymous8:10 PM

    You are so right about teachers being unaware of their skills. This became very clear to me when I gave up teaching and moved into the world of training and facilitation. The trouble is that because so many of these skills are barely conscious, teachers don't know they have them unless someone observes them and articulates precisely what they're doing.
    When I'm working with teachers, I make a point of reminding them that if they don't value themselves, precious few others are going to. Society doesn't on the whole, students aren't about to - and to be fair it's not a teenager's job to boost the self esteem of parents or teachers.
    The downside is the temptation to take control of any situation -like the long queue in my local Co-op!

  3. Mmm. I see myself about to enter an amalgam of the worlds suggested in these two comments as we go through the weekend - watch this space!