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The Dangers of Effective Teaching Pt II

Remember Susan? The scary French teacher.

She didn’t 'protect children into' French. Her students, the one who just didn't 'get' French were effectively held down to their desks, their red faces flushed with frustration and anger. They didn’t want to go to France anyway. That’s what they would tell Tony, the whizz Head of the MFL Department, the guy who was constantly mopping up the removed and the broken from Susan’s class.

She got a lot of flowers when she finished, but not from any of them. Not that she was bothered.

Chris, on the other hand, is bothered. He's very bothered. He's embarking on teaching the Romans to his class. They are a ragtag bunch of great children and they clearly love him and his teaching assistant, Ros. I’ve found myself working with this class and now, it seems, I’m part of the team.

The following is a quick list of what I see this team do as they demonstrate their professional botheredness:

  • We got ready for today when we were packing up yesterday
  • Like bar workers, we ‘clean’ as we go
  • We understand little Katie has all the parental support in the world and that Ashleigh, who shares her table, has none. There experience in the classroom is equitable because of the 'temperature' set by the adults (in this case, warm). We need that, otherwise Ashleigh may well get lost, disenfranchised and distant
  • We exude botheredness
  • Through botheredness, we can ensure that Katie can share her experiences of the family camper van trip up to Hadrian’s Wall and Ashleigh can ask questions about it and uncover a desire to want to know more. Instead of closing the gap, we are preventing it
  • We shift our stance according to the content. For example, sometimes we need to just tell kids stuff which requires some dog-honest stand and deliver teaching. Stand and deliver does not mean stand still and deliver though and there is no need to be rooted to the spot. We use the space to hold attention, to develop engagement and nail down investment. 
  • Creativity is never chaos. We hold the locus of control whilst giving children the space to uncover new questions, new lines of inquiry and new knowledge
  • We know it’s not all high-fiving the kids and getting misty-eyed, but we do see ourselves as the gatekeepers to the world of the subject content we are walking the children through – the pedagogy is warm, and that warmth can spread across practice and curriculum. Warmth is infectious, especially when it’s established, modelled and maintained by adults, bothered adults.

This is what Chris, Ros and I talk about A LOT as we research into our respective practices. What we have discovered is that working on the warmth in the class could actually can make those classrooms work like clockwork, but with none of us being wound-up springs like Susan was. Children are free to explore the highways and byways of learning and it's even okay to spend times in the odd cul-de-sac.

It's clear that care, protection, warmth and botheredness take being effective to a whole new level.

It also helps us as teachers to re-engage why we went into the job in the first place.

So, what’s your stance? [ITL]

Read part one here.

For more writing by Hywel, check out his Independent Thinking Press page here

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