I have been a teacher for 31 years, a head teacher for 16 years and, at the age of 55, this much I know about why Tom Bennett is right – teaching IS a wonderful job!
I am teaching a Year 11 Business Studies GCSE class comprising 11 boys. I began teaching them in Year 10, when their behaviour was ruinous. I took them out of the original class so that the teacher and the 12 remaining students could get on with teaching and learning. I marched them to my office, sat them round my table and explained that, for the next 14 months, I would be teaching them, right though to their final examinations.
Two things happened in that class last week that gladdened my heart. On Monday we were practising MCQs, including this one:
Now, I had not taught them anything like this. I have no idea what a “Pure play retailer” might possibly be. When we went through the answers, Luke had chosen the correct answer, B. I asked him why and this was his reply:
‘Well, Mr Partmiter in RE was talking the other day about God being omnipotent, and he had explained to us that “omni” is a prefix meaning “all”, so I thought that must be the answer because customers can buy stuff in all different ways. Good old Mr Parmiter!’
Inspired by Alex Quigley, we have focused for the last three years on equipping students with the tools to deconstruct words to investigate their meaning when they don’t know what they mean. Always good when a plan comes together…
And on Thursday afternoon, before we finished the year with a Betty’s tea shop Cheeky Little Rascal each, I told the boys we had got some work to do and I had to get their brains thinking. Oliver replied, quick as a flash, “It wouldn’t be a Business lesson, Sir, if we weren’t thinking.” I have been working of late to ensure every single student has learnt what I have taught, inspired by Tom Sherrington’s seminal post on the #1 problem in teaching. Just changing the wording of my questioning has helped hugely. I have these boys thinking hard; instead of asking “Have you learnt that?” I ask “What have you learnt from that?” I get them thinking all the time. Oliver’s comment is the result of relentless interrogation, until I feel sure that all 11 boys have what I have taught securely in their brains!
I taught an all-boy group like this several years ago for English GCSE. One lad stood out, called Tom. A few weeks ago, Ros McMullen texted me. She lives just up the road. I was reminded of our ensuing exchange of texts this morning when I read Tom Bennett’s inspiring post, “It’s still a wonderful job – because teaching saved me”. I don’t usually post this kind of stuff, but Ros’ texts meant a lot to me, because my student Tom meant a lot to me. And Tom Bennett is spot on – it is a wonderful job, for sure!