There are elements of my teaching as a trainee that I would not want to replicate myself, and I wouldn’t want others to replicate. This includes allowing the growth of a marking mountain, thinking that solely by being pleasant would I win the hearts of the kids I teach and also my liberal approach to apron-necessity during clay lessons (sorry parents).
But there are some elements of trainee behaviour that are worth us pausing to think about as practising teacher. Whilst we have the expertise that makes us better able to teach pupils, and whilst I am obviously not suggesting we cast that by the wayside, trainees in their madcap and ‘outsider’ ways of thinking, often manage to inject something altogether different into their teaching.
I had a trainee teacher with me last year who had a background in architecture and was a professional standard Bhangra dancer. He was very keen to build many links to this and at first I was a bit suspicious, clutching my schemes of work to my maternal bosom. But trainees need the space to trainees, he explained what he was wanting to do and how it would hit our objectives and I thought…yeah ok. It was amazing. He contextualised the teaching of area, perimeter and volume within an architecture project and the kids learned all the core mathematical principles they needed in a way that was also very creative and taught them lots of other stuff. And as for the bhangra… the kids thrived with his high-octane musical masterpiece, and it made a change from my Friday PM ‘Just Had A Greggs’ lethargy that undergirds my cricket lessons.
Perhaps, out of habit, fatigue, exhaustion and – perhaps – necessity, we have allowed ourselves to sacrifice some of what makes teaching so brilliant – the fact that it is a creative high-spirited endeavour. I look back on some of the ways I approached the curriculum back in 2011 (longtime) and I remember seeing it as not remotely controversial but a bit stale: I set to work jazzing the life out of it, and some of the stuff I made then is among my best stuff.
Finding pairs of fractions that add up to make a whole? Now I would tend to teach it in a chalk and talk sort of way, if I am honest. And they get it, it seems. Back then, I created *pulls string on party popper* THE FRACTIONS DATING AGENCY! Where no fraction needs to be alone and where we can help you to feel complete.! I even played Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’. They also got it.
There is a danger that as we get bogged down in the day-to-day, because it really is a difficult job not matter how life-affirming and important it is, there is a danger that we passively allow ourselves to become part of the stale drudgery that we bemoan. Perhaps, like a wide-eyed trainee seeking to impress all and sundry, we ought sometimes to dig out the costumes, take time to talk, give up a lunch time or two to play with the kids in the playground and get to know them. Maybe, like a naive trainee, we should look at a scheme of work and instead of thinking ‘That’s crap’ and teaching it anyway because the resources are made, we will think ‘That’s crap’ and then re-engineer our classroom and lesson plans to resemble a fairground, a coronation or a Muslim wedding (all happened).
Perhaps we all should all harness the naive power of the trainee once in a while.