So. A whole term has passed since I had to move my Youngster to a different school. In the final week of his academic year, it seems like a good moment to reflect on the differences that a term has made, and to write down what I’ve learned about teaching in that time. First of all, I’ll give a Before and After snapshot of the Youngster.
Always tired, but couldn’t sleep. Permanently in varying stages of grumpiness. Gradually stopping everything learning related - stopped reading in his spare time, stopped playing music, stopped drawing, stopped swimming. Then he stopped doing work in class too (though the teacher didn’t actually tell me that; I only found out once I picked up his school books after he finished). His only desire seemed to be to play with toy cars or watch movies, which he did with a zealous obsessiveness.
Still doesn’t always sleep, but now because he has sneakily been reading novels in bed after lights-out. Sometimes grumpy, but frequently cheerful. Reads a lot - sometimes two or even three of the school reading books a day, plus novels. Has started drawing lessons. Is teaching himself to play ukulele, and has taught himself a few guitar chords. Has developed a new fascination with developing rugby skills. Still plays with cars etc., but less single-mindedly.
I have, in point of fact, got my child back.
So what made the difference? I believe most of the change can be credited to the teaching at the new school. It’s funny, really. The curriculum and ethos of the last school should have suited him very well - lots of music and art, lots of teaching through story to appeal to the imagination. The new school does stuff I personally don’t particularly agree with, such as homework and weekly testing of spelling, maths and reading comprehension.
But it works.
I have come to the uneasy conclusion that teaching philosophy is merely a desirable extra. Good teaching is the necessity. If the teacher is good, it doesn’t seem to matter about the curriculum of the school or the prevailing philosophical bent - the children will still thrive.
These are some of my markers of good teaching at the moment. What do you think characterises good teaching?