The Triumph of Hope over Experience

I have recently come across the writings of another headteacher, John Tomsett, in which he refers to some difficult classes he is currently teaching, illustrates his actions with some graphic detail, and suggests that by taking on the children at their own games, be that ‘yellow car’ or ‘door knobs’, credibility and respect are won. You can read that here. One of those commenting suggests that the methods described would not get past inspection, even posting the thought that OfSTED might need to be informed straight away.

Here some straightforward rules I use in action:

  • Treat all as you would be treated
  • It is all in the preparation – compelling learning experiences need to be worked at.
  • Trust all you work with, but always check to praise. Don’t assume trust can’t be discussed.
  • People lie; children less so than adults, and children aren’t very good at it either.
  • People aren’t usually ill – if they are, show them concern and get them back on the work saddle quickly
  • Work hard and be direct; the harder you work, the more work gets done, the better your skills are established and the luckier you become. Amazingly results improve too.
  • Work/Life balance is a luxury teachers can’t afford. We’ve signed up for an asymmetric life, so both adults and children need to get used to it.
  • Feed your enthusiasms (and theirs) – A smile uses far fewer muscles than a frown.
  • Go watch the children work for others; whether it be in the Library, in the yard, in the arts or sports, taking an interest in others ensures they become interested in you. Really.
  • Where possible, stand in the playground or on the touchline with parents, and talk with them; I can’t imagine a more artificial set of circumstances than a parent evening, except perhaps over the visitors counter in ‘Porridge’ prison. Relationships need to be worked at too.
  • Remember stuff; having a memory means you won’t let others make the same mistake twice. Except politicians, who are beyond any control we have except the ballot box.
  • Homework is a good thing, often set very badly. The older children are, the more you need to ensure their ‘practice’ happens under your nose.
  • Give great feedback more than marks.  You’d never give adults marks; and if you do, they rapidly become dependent upon them. Only say things are outstanding or exceptional when they are.
  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

By the time you read this far, I might have fiddled with the ideas a little. That’s a good thing, by the way, reviewing and correcting work. I know that following the above, I will get all my pupils into the right frame of mind to give of their best.  I certainly won’t have worried them about failure, because of course adolescents are by and large not motivated by the Private Frazers of this world, who let us know in no uncertain terms that ‘We’re all doomed‘. What is even worse, is that people who are that negative have scant regard for those in positions of authority over them, which is why of course you never want to give the poor bloody infantry anything other than a cheery smile and the certainty that you’ll be up there with them when the chips are down. And for those teachers that go the extra 1000 miles, their’s is the best job in the world, because they discover lands and ways of learning us mere mortals will never encounter.

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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