Getting a lift while giving a lift

17th October 2008 at 01:00

For those of us who received our teacher training in the Ark, the maxim that teaching is a young person's game is slightly discomforting. There's no doubt that the energy and innovation of youth leads to effective and engaging learning experiences, but the good news is: it appears to be catching.

This year, I have the great fortune to be working with our newly-qualified teachers - and what a treat it is proving to be. Keith is bringing youthful vigour to a science corridor best described as generally venerable; Jamie is already getting rave parental feedback for his confidence building in maths; Brooke (a fondly remembered FP) has slotted into the English department as if she was a veteran; and Laura in PE - well, Laura bounces!

Recently, I sat down with them to watch Willy Russell's Our Day Out, a comic but insightful portrayal of a "progress class" excursion from the 1980s. As you would expect, the Russell polemic, while entertaining thoroughly, also gives much pause for thought; even as the DVD played, I could see them reflecting on the whys and wherefores of the profession.

As she had stayed behind for our session and missed her normal car pool, I was glad to offer Laura a lift home - though, startled to realise that the film we had just watched had been released before they were even born, an unwelcome reminder of the huge gap in our age and experience, I did wonder what we might find to talk about.

I needn't have worried. The 25-minute journey was more than filled with her observations on teaching, learning, pupils and teachers. A rapid fire conversation suffused with the energy of newness and youth, it left me feeling positive and reflective, convinced that, in the new generation of teachers, we have a hugely effective force for the development and encouragement of our pupils.

Our teaching students, too, have just left after their observation week, proclaiming, with no suggestion of irony, their excitement at the thought of returning in October. Our existing staff, overwhelmingly, applauded the commitment and drive of these younger colleagues.

It is catching, and you can't help but view the job positively when surrounded by such enthusiasm. Just don't look in the mirror.

Sean McPartlin is depute head of St Margaret's Academy in Livingston.

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