Dressing up for the occasion

27th January 2012 at 00:00

World leaders had spoken and education ministers from different countries had been caught up in high-blown debate over schools policy. Other esteemed delegates present included sheikhs, philosophers and the founder of Wikipedia.

But now it was the turn of a junior-school teacher from West Yorkshire to address a session at the world summit.

When Kelly Wood started speaking, the officials might have expected a first-person view of ways to make teaching outstanding - and that is what they got.

What they had not expected were the slides showing her teaching dressed as an airline pilot, as Harry Potter and as a blue alien from the film Avatar.

These glimpses of her more wacky lessons seemed to baffle a few of the officials, but left the vast majority charmed.

Ms Wood had not set out to be an international speaker on education; it was just a commitment that came with winning the Outstanding New Teacher of the Year Award in 2010.

Nor would she claim her approaches (pages 4-7) are in any way ground- breaking. Many teachers who read her ingredients for good teaching will think, "Well, yes - obviously. I've always done that."

More cynical teachers might huff that dressing up and larking around with pupils looks suspiciously like edutainment. But that would be to ignore a key ingredient Kelly Wood stresses: she believes teachers must be "grounded".

And she does not just mean grounded in terms of understanding their pupils' backgrounds, but also in accepting the realpolitik of teaching today, when the pressure is on staff to satisfy assessment targets and league tables.

When Ms Wood won her award, a pupil at her school accidently coined a new word by saying that she had "inspirated" him. Her approaches to teaching may not shock you with their innovation, but they are a reminder of the importance of delight in the classroom, as well as of the many teachers who succeed in creating such engaging lessons every day. It is hard not to find that a bit, well, inspirating.

Michael Shaw is editor of TESpro @mrmichaelshaw

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