I think I'm in the swing of this teaching thing

31st August 2007 at 01:00
I was fortunate enough to be a guest at the New Directions Inspirational Teacher of the Year awards in Cardiff at the end of last term. Like everyone else who attended, I enjoyed celebrating the endless efforts, energy and successes of all those who were nominated for their work in schools across Wales as well as the fantastic entertainment from Radyr Comprehensive School's Big Band, whose performance inspired me to download some Glenn Miller tunes when I got home.

In an upbeat mood, clearly the result of good food, good company and some big band swing music, I found myself thinking back to some of my teaching experiences. As a PE teacher, I have always tried to inspire pupils to enjoy the benefits of physical activity even when they felt challenged by the subject, or the weather conditions. As a sports coach, I inspire individual performers or school teams to compete to the best of their ability, no matter how good the opposition.

Accepting that the issue of whether I actually inspire anyone is clearly both subjective and irrelevant, I started to wonder where I got my inspiration? The question was one I found difficult to answer.

As I sat, the process of digesting reminded me of a chance meeting earlier that week. Unusually, I had found myself in a Cardiff hotel for a lunchtime business meeting. When I entered the restaurant, the manager had exclaimed with seemingly genuine enthusiasm, "Mr McCann, how are you?" My ego took over and for a split second I thought that I had 'made it'. But I soon came back down to earth, quickly realising that this was a past pupil. His name, Ollie, came to me instantly, closely followed by the names of his older siblings, his father, his friendship group at school, the university he went to and even the course. (I must point out that this is not typical and in the past I have floundered through many similar encounters none the wiser as to who I am talking to until, finally, the poor former pupil resorts to telling me their name, slightly red faced.)

Having talked to Ollie for a few minutes, I joined my business colleague for lunch. It wasn't long before I realised that I felt pretty good, even energetic and enthusiastic about the meeting. These feelings remained with me for some time.

And so it was, accompanied by the sounds of the Glenn Miller Band, that I thought more about that chance encounter and realised that it was teaching Ollie, and so many like him who had constantly and honestly strived to do their best, that is what had really inspired me to do the same.

Andy McCann is a former assistant head and now director of AMCAN consultancy and training.

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