A more exciting formula

22nd February 2008 at 00:00
I am slightly perturbed to find myself on an unsure footing while training to become a teacher. Yes I have a chemistry degree; yes, I have worked as a scientist in a real laboratory; yes, my friends describe me as "geeky science boy". So why am I learning so much science on a PGDE (Professional Graduate Diploma in Education) while I am re-evaluating what it means to educate? I feel my legs are being simultaneously kicked from under me.

I was expecting to learn about educational techniques, such as the only correct way to skin a cat or 101 things to do in difficult classroom situations. I was expecting to be scientifically sure-footed. Maybe I was really expecting to enter into the static exam-targeted system that I had succeeded in all those years ago, something tangible and real, something that left pupils with a piece of paper that assessed them over their years of secondary education.

What I have found instead is much more interesting and dynamic: education. For a start I have found out that there is no such thing as energy. The term is surplus to requirements, so to speak. Assessment: good or bad? Should we get rid of the ordinary level exams, leaving time and money to put the fun back into education and the smiles, rather than furrowed brows of anxiety, back on our children's faces?

One of the joys and headaches of this course is that the majority of the questions are left open-ended with no right or wrong, just variations in effect. No one has yet told me what to do or how to teach, but examples of teaching styles have been tried out in practice within my subject group and discussed as to how effective they are on a personal basis. The unsettling conclusion is that no single style will suit any particular person, let alone a class.

Which brings me on to my own classroom experiences, long since forgotten as a school pupil but revisited on a Wednesday morning as a PGDE student having neglected to complete the homework task set by the tutor. Without providing the right incentives, even motivated pupils, like PGDE students, sometimes fail to complete set tasks. My tutor provided me with a valuable lesson in motivation that morning and perhaps I should now be finding out what works best for those cats

Duncan Short is a student teacher in Edinburgh.

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