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.