I’ve learned an incredible amount during my first ever teaching position. There are many things that I will adapt so they can work in the context of my new school. There are other approaches I haven’t had the opportunity to try yet fully, which I look forward to exploring. There are also a handful of ideas that I will not draw upon again as they didn’t quite work for me as a practitioner. However, there is one thing that I am certain I will never change about my teaching.
A few staff members have questioned this approach, whilst others have praised it. It’s safe to say, though, that the children are very positive towards it, and – let’s face it – they are the ones who I’m really trying to enthuse and engage.
I always endeavour to go with the interests and mood of my pupils.
It’s true – all teachers should be doing this to some degree . How else can we enthuse children and empower them to take their learning into their own hands? However, I have perhaps taken this to the extreme end of the spectrum in which the children get a very large say in the way the classroom works…This happens in a number of ways:
- The children often get a say in which order we do lessons, depending on how they feel on the day. It’s not to say that we completely disregard a subject; we just rearrange our timetable to ensure we are at our most effective for the lessons ahead.
- If the children are not enthused by an approach or particular subject matter, we change. My job isn’t to drag twenty-seven children through a lesson that they’re resistant to. Instead, it’s my job to teach them skills and concepts in a context that is relevant and engaging for them. I’d much rather change my angle, hook them with something they’re truly enthusiastic about, and then explore the concept or skills in that way if it’s not panning out how I’d originally hoped.
- If a particular subject matter for writing isn’t floating their boat, I encourage them to go off-piste. The children write their most successful pieces when they are based on their own passions. This has done wonders for the amount of writing for pleasure my class has done this year. Pupils have produced some incredible independent writing at home this year including: poems, a murder mystery, an information text based on their favourite TV show and their own Harry Potter spin-off.
- If an incident occurs and a suitable sanction is not immediately apparent, I ask the child in question what they think should happen. This encourages them to reflect on their behavioural choices and the majority of the time they make an informed, suitable decision themselves without much input. This allows them to understand how they are responsible for their own behaviour and to consider the consequences their actions may have. It also helps us to have a more open conversation as to how we can de-escalate such problems in the future.
- I often ask the children to vote whether they would like to read for pleasure or listen to the class text. I want them to read what they are desperate to read, not what they feel they have to read/listen to. Using my hot chocolate reward scheme for reading really helped to get those reluctant readers on board with this ASAP. Next week, I’m excited to introduce my new Year 4 class to the ‘Book World Cup’ to vote for our class reader for the Autumn Term. Yet again, it gives them the power to choose, but I can also monitor the quality of the texts by carefully choosing the competing books.
Now, you may argue this is giving the children too much power in the decision-making process, and that they’ll struggle in other classes or in the future when they don’t have as much choice in matters. With this in mind, I decided to put myself in their shoes and consider myself as a learner. When I think about it, the lessons I’ve been taught in the past – the ones I remember the most vividly, and gained the most value from – are the ones in which I was allowed to pursue my interests and that felt truly tailored to me, such as Miss Boss’ creative writing lessons or Miss Galama’s geography lessons in which we expressed our understanding in a number of medium including drama, leaflets and the occasional song…
When I was at secondary school, college and uni, I loathed sitting in lessons/lectures that felt irrelevant to me. Let’s be honest – I still feel it now if a training session is not engaging. No one wants to feel like their precious time is being wasted and I certainly strive to ensure this is not the case for my children. I don’t think I’m setting them up for a loss in the future. Instead, I’m teaching them to learn through what they love and take control of learning opportunities. The children are overwhelmingly positive about this approach and I think their successes have been vast because they’ve been empowered to make their own decisions in many, if not all, aspects of their learning.
I’m sure there are many things that I’m not quite doing right yet during the early stages of my teaching career. One thing I’ll never change, however, is how much I endeavour to go with the interests and mood of my pupils.