Image courtesy of The Independent
So often at a TeachMeet event, there is a little moment that sticks with you. Mine last night, at the second TeachMeet that I've organised (<link>), came from Mr Beezy (@TheReal_MrBeezy). He stressed the importance of asking 'Why?'. It is an important reminder to all of us to step back and ask the question 'why' when we look at our teaching... "Why is student X not behaving?", "Why is student Y not making progress?", "Why is student Z falling asleep in my lesson?". Too often we focus on the behaviour and not what is behind it.
I guess part of this is due to my new role as Pastoral Development Coordinator (PDC) for Year 10. Obviously teaching always involves pastoral care, but from September I will be at the frontline for 125 fourteen year old girls embarking on their GCSEs ensuring all their many needs are met. I'll need to be asking 'why' a great deal.
It reminded me of a TED talk that I hadn't watched in ages by the late Rita Pierson, "Every Kid Needs A Champion". She begins with a quote from a teacher she used work with:
A colleague said to me one time, "They don't pay me to like the kids. They pay me to teach a lesson.The kids should learn it. I should teach it. They should learn it. Case closed."
Well, I ([Pierson] said to her, "You know, kids don't learn from people they don't like."
This does pose problems. Many of us have seen colleagues try too hard to be liked. Ultimately, we are here to teach and to educate. Sometimes that means we have to do things that mean our students will not like us. They may even hate us!
However, as we listen on to Rita Pierson it becomes clear that this is not the end of the story, and actually her view is not an over simplistic one. They will understand when we say no, put them in detention and show them tough love. They will understand because in the lead up to this point, we have developed a relationship with them so that they know that everything we do is to help them achieve. They may be angry with us in the short term, but when they calm down and 'get over it' our relationship will remain strong.
Will you like all your children? Of course not... You won't like them all, and the tough ones show up for a reason. It's the connection. It's the relationships. And while you won't like them all, the key is, they can never, ever know it. So teachers become great actors and great actresses, and we come to work when we don't feel like it, and we're listening to policy that doesn't make sense, and we teach anyway. We teach anyway, because that's what we do.
Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.