Friday, 4 March 2016

Every Day is a School Day.

Isle of Arran.

Teaching was never an easy profession, because students do not always want to learn. I have, since retiring heard a number of teachers speak on the radio and television about how the art of teaching has to be fun. It seems that fun is the in word. 

I remember a scheme being introduced while I was a teacher based on reward for good behaviour. It had its merits but i often felt that the only students who seemed to benefit from the scheme were those who did not want to learn. Those students who often made teaching difficult because of their behaviour. With this scheme if they stayed quiet for the period of learning they were awarded a praise slip. If after a period they had gathered a certain number they were awarded with a special treat. 

The flaw with this system, in my mind was that the students who came in period after period and got their heads down to the lesson were never noticed or singled out for such slips. 

I also believed that it changed the nature of the relationship between teacher and student. There were those who were behaving, not because they respected the teacher, or found the lesson worthy of behaviour, but because they wanted the reward at the end.

Against everything I continued to teach my students as I always had. There was a large pile of praise slips lying unused in my desk drawer. 

I persevered with the difficult students listening to them, encouraging them learning from them. They were not just student fodder each was an individual. Worthy of my time.

How good it is to know that many of those students still keep in touch and still send me pictures of their weddings, births of family and events in their lives. 

What is the first step to a shared relationship. It is remembering that we have one mouth and two ears and using them in proportion. 

As Winnie the Pooh says, "Some people talk to animals, sadly not very many listen to them. "

There is the story of the teacher new to the job.

She was young  new to the job from an industrial city in the north of England. She had accepted a temporary job teaching a class of four-year-olds out in one of the most isolated, rural parts of north Wales. 

One of her first lessons involved teaching the letter S so she held up a big colour photograph of a sheep and said: 

"Now, who can tell me what this is?" 

No answer. Twenty blank and wordless faces looked back at her. "Come on, who can tell me what this is?" she exclaimed, tapping the photograph determinedly, unable to believe that the children were quite so ignorant. 

The 20 faces became apprehensive and even fearful as she continued to question them with mounting frustration.

Eventually, one brave soul put up a tiny, reluctant hand. 

"Yes!" she cried, waving the picture aloft. "Tell me what you think this is!" 

"Please, Miss," said the boy warily. "Is it a three-year-old Border Leicester?"

That day that teacher learned as much as the class. Do not jump to conclusions about others. Always be prepared to listen and learn from no matter who. 

Or to put it another way, " Every day is a school day."

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