Monday, January 14, 2008

Reflective pupils?

Edubloggers whom I read and admire, like Mr W and Edublogger ipse, often comment on how blogging has tended to make them more reflective practitioners of the art of teaching. Tonight I have been reflecting on how teaching has made me a more reflective student - because from time to time, in my new life, I find myself in statu pupillari in a small mixed-ability group.

I must've been a pretty awful pupil in some respects. In English, especially, I never in the whole of my six years in secondary had a decent English teacher other than my dad - and God alone knows how he found the energy to enthuse me after a day's teaching. (I taught, briefly, in the same department as one of my former teachers and confirmed my suspicions: she was every bit as dire as I had suspected) But I digress. The thing was that when I became bored I used to read a book under the desk (possible in a class of 40) and eat Mintolas. I simply opted out of the whole process - and this was in the top class in a selective school.

Back to being in a mixed-ability group. In some ways it's quite like the teaching involved when pupils are expressing their ideas about a piece of writing and you're being encouraging and trying to guide them towards coherence and actual understanding. I find myself holding back - not interrupting, for the most part, and trying not to ask the question which will destroy the idea newly presented. There is a huge temptation, when you see the "answer", to leap in with a swift summary to demonstrate your own understanding without necessarily taking anyone else with you other than the "teacher" - but because I've been the teacher myself I know this can't be allowed because the rest of the class won't all be there with you. And there's the knowledge of how irritating it is if a pupil interrupts before a teaching point is properly made - or, worse still, interrupts another pupil so that they almost come to blows.

And all this brings me round, in a circuitous sort of way, to reflecting on the problems faced by our pupils in a class, whether mixed-ability or streamed. Unless a pupil is working solo, there must be long periods of boredom, irritation, frustration - and a sense of how much more rapid learning could be taking place if the rest of the class weren't there. I know this doesn't allow for the sparks generated in a really good-going discussion - but how much of my own enjoyment of this as a teacher was because it felt as if I was doing a good job?

I am happy to report, however, that I learned a new word today: pericope. And I felt as if this was a word I have needed to know and use for all of my life. Wonderful.


  1. And I'm the tiresome interrupter *g*

  2. You may very well think that - I could not possibly comment!

  3. Anonymous5:37 PM

    Ah, but you see, in this particular group, learning opportunities abound. When you are sitting there in tedium, waiting for the less able pupil to present their work (or for the less able teacher to get to her point), you can engage with the hidden curriculum: pastoral patience, community development and honouring the 'weaker member' (thus following your very favourite Saint Paul).

    And can I share with you how much I enjoyed the moment when another member of the group was first of the mark to explain J and P! The bored bird sometimes misses the worm.

  4. Teehee! :p

    Play nice now, girls.

  5. But there is this further learning opportunity when the teacher gains enlightenment about the reality which might lurk in every group, no matter how well she might think she is doing as a teacher - and I'm talking about myself here!
    As for the Pauline qualities listed - I reckon I was fair bursting with them!