Teaching: Reflections

I dont get very close to classrooms these days but occasionally I see and hear things that take me back, back to the things that I most enjoyed about the job. Uppermost is the sheer creative opportunity of deciding how best to introduce a subject and how best to try and engineer understanding and appreciation. Taking the  syllabus of a subject you know well and fashioning a series of lessons from it was always a treat.  

The core ideas then have to be tested on the anvils of practicality. There may be 25 in the audience and they will all need to be accommodated in such a way that their interest and motivation can be sparked. Resources loom large in this context – ideally some arresting words or images on which to base the ‘flow’ of the lesson. The initial stages often providing an opportunity for injecting a little drama, excitement and relevance. There is such a close link between acting and teaching.

There is clearly more chance of attracting interest and enthusiasm if you can convey some of your own. This is part of a relationship bargain where the teacher works to offer stimulating, inclusive and worthwhile learning opportunities in exchange for a degree of positve response. Then comes the development activities where the aim is to facilitate understanding. The best teachers can assess the progress of the class on a more or less continual basis. A similar instinctive activity relates to keeping everyone on task and everyone behaving appropriately. The ultimate challenge is to secure the learning in the memory.

As I describe these things I remember how complex all of this can be and the extent to which it ever goes to plan and leaves everyone  satisfied.  Leaving everyone satisfied is of course a serious business, with such an ever increasing degree of external accountability attending the work of the teacher.