Do not become a style victim

6th January 2006 at 00:00
These days, there seems to be an over-complication in teaching. There are thinking skills, listening skills, critical skills, basic skills and a general over-elaboration of the way teachers might teach.

The exhortation, "We ought to do this", is often heard in schools, and it is made by people trying to persuade teachers that their teaching method is wrong. Indeed, many trendy initiatives emanate from fellow teachers who have been (usually temporarily) seduced by someone outside teaching who has lectured (usually on an in-service training day) that his method of teaching is the only one worth contemplating.

I am not disputing that teaching is a highly demanding job. Neither am I denigrating teachers, nor suggesting that many of the ideas being propounded have no value whatsoever.

But teachers have their own style of teaching. I believe this rarely changes in a lifetime despite the best endeavours of the "trendy" that they should change.

I have picked up tips from most of the training courses I have been on and incorporated them, as appropriate, into my lessons. However, my style has changed little over the years and neither is there much change in the teaching style of colleagues. Much of the stress in teaching is caused, as a recent survey suggests, by fellow teachers who want to promote their own theories in the school and to persuade other teachers to adopt them.

I believe that the late Ted Wragg shared my views too. In his articles there was an underlying theme that it was the relationship of mutual respect between teacher and learner and the simple classroom interactions that mattered.

Dr John Rae, a former head of the independent Westminster school, once said: "There is more cant, pomposity and so-called professional expertise in education than in any other subject."

He had a point and I believe these experts should allow teachers to do what they think best.

Most teachers have a pastoral group for whom they are responsible. The teacher should help them make the best of their educational opportunities, recognising that help from outside agencies is sometimes appropriate. They should impart their knowledge to pupils in such a way that they will both learn and enjoy the subject.

Let simplicity be your aim and do not let the "experts" divert you throughout your career.

Jim Goodall is a science teacher from Torfaen

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