`After Mrs Maginty, OFSTED presents no fear'

11th November 1994 at 00:00
PATRICIA MORGAN TELLS HOW SHE TEACHES. Patricia Morgan Age: 50 School: St Benedict's RC Primary School, Ampleforth, North Yorkshire Post:Reception teacher

Patricia Morgan, who has taught for 30 years, still prides herself on being one of "Mrs Maginty's girls". Mrs Maginty, a tutor at her London teacher training college, had a formative influence on her career. "She was an absolute Tartar. But she demanded perfection from your teaching practice and you did your best to give it.

"She expected you to look good, never to be impolite to anybody, adult or child, to plan properly, never to start the school day unprepared. After Mrs Maginty, OFSTED presents no fear. What she taught me has stayed with me.

"If you present children with things that are well-produced then it shows you care. If they give me a piece of work that they have not made a real effort with I say 'Do you think it's good enough?' and usually they admit that it isn't and we start again."

The eldest of a family of four, Patricia Morgan always had a troupe of young siblings and cousins in tow. She believes she was "made" for primary teaching, that it was always going to be something she could do well.

"I love children. I want to help them to grow in all directions. When you are presented with this small child with so much potential, it is very exciting drawing out all the facets of ability. Even when I look back, in every day for the past 30 years there has always been something fresh.

"Of course you get bored with particular things. There are times when I don't think I can do 'Roger Red Hat' again. But it is that child's reaction (to the words and the story) that makes it so different every time."

"Firm but kind", was the valedictory commentary on Patricia Morgan's teaching practice. That description, she believes, still rings true. "I would never want to frighten children but they know they've got to do what I want. I have never had real discipline problems. I don't remember ever being challenged by a child or thinking I couldn't cope."

Although she has spent the past five years teaching in rural North Yorkshire, her career has mostly been spent in inner London. Her first year was the toughest when she had to manage a class of 44 seven-year-olds - including a group of difficult boys - in a north London school without even a teaching assistant. But even then she never felt out of control. "If it is behaviour I don't want, I isolate it. I withdraw the child from the situation and I usually say something like 'I am not at all pleased. You know it's not the right thing to do don't you?'" Such a question she feels is crucial as not all children are always aware that their behaviour is unacceptable. "You cannot just impose a discipline, there has to be an element of negotiation."

Although a careful planner, she is prepared to abandon plans that are not working. "When I had my first large class I used to sit up until one in the morning making work cards, and I mostly have my day written down beforehand - even now. But something I have planned carefully may be a flop. I can tell when I see their faces and I turn it into something else.

"I do want them to feel special and loved. That, on the whole, is what a teacher of young children can do. I would never ridicule a child or cut them down with a chance, adult-type remark, or dismiss anything they say." Although she takes social problems into account, she avoids becoming directly involved. "You have to make allowances, of course. You can be sympathetic; that magic hand rubbing a tummy. If they are feeling out of sorts you leave it, you let it go. The important thing is to be in tune with the children you are teaching. "

A sense of humour is vital for survival. "They do make me laugh. I heard one of them saying recently 'Mrs Morgan's a very giggly teacher isn't she?' If you lose your sense of humour, you've had it.

Music plays an important part in Patricia Morgan's teaching style. "I think there should be music at the beginning of every child's day. Music is a joy. If you lift your voice you feel better for it. We have at least one full music session a week when the children learn rhythm, learn to listen. We compose and we do movement a lot. When things are not going right I use music to calm and settle. If in doubt we have a music session."

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