For the greater part of my PGCE year, I was extremely fortunate to be placed in a small school situated on the edge of a city. A number of children attending this school were from a fairly low socio-economic background. It was during this placement in an exceptional Physical Education department that I learned the values of authenticity and experience in teaching.
I remember the energy and enthusiasm given to every pupil in every lesson by one particular teacher. I remember the appreciation and trust returned by each class to this member of staff. The impact of this infectious learning environment on the development of every single pupil was overwhelming.
I remember how the head of department moved calmly and assertively from one challenging situation to the next during the day, pausing to deliver high quality lessons, all of which seemed hardwired into memory, autonomously selected and adapted as necessary for the needs and stage of learning of each class.
Each day, these teachers came in to school with the primary aim of teaching high quality and engaging lessons.
I have heard it said that early on in teaching, it can take a fair time before we are consistently giving back and adding value to our classes and to our school. After a stay of less than two years, I may well have been in debt to my first school as a qualified teacher. I did however lend myself fully to the extra-curricular sports programme, by running as many clubs and teams as was possible. If nothing else, I mastered Swindon town centre’s notorious magic roundabout by minibus in rush hour.
In my second school, we had a fantastically committed team of Physical Education teachers. Another challenging school, often in this setting staff really galvanise and support each other. In any working environment, to be really supported and to really support our colleagues is a huge privilege. It is also incredibly beneficial.
What resonated most strongly in this school was the emphasis that was placed by all fellow departmental colleagues on the importance of teaching consistently good and outstanding lessons. When staff work together to support each other, and teaching is consistently good or outstanding, the outcomes for all tend to be enormously positive and empowering.
Teachers enjoy teaching, children enjoy learning, teachers enjoy learning and quite often children enjoy teaching.
In a demanding profession, and with so much happening beyond the classroom, it can be difficult to apportion time and headspace to just teaching. But we are teachers first. To this end, moving into my third school as a head of department, I wrote a simple message on the whiteboard in the PE office.
How we plie our trade day in day out in the classroom is what defines our intentions and our ultimate value as teachers. We should make it a priority to teach all lessons with the highest expectations and to the highest possible standard. If we get the teaching bit right, most of everything else that we do in schools falls neatly into place.