Ready, steady, teach - Let's get personal

26th September 2008 at 01:00

I don't remember any of my Year 8 science test results. Nevertheless, I frequently have the duty of hammering home to pupils how their most recent results relate to their last result, which, in turn, will have an effect on their setting for Year 9 and influence their predicted GCSE score, which is integral to their college placement, which, of course, ultimately decides the job they get and the car they will drive.

As I bombard them with this statistical mumbo-jumbo, I find myself a cog in the standards driven agenda machine.

I have witnessed and been asked to do things I have found morally questionable, shuddering as pupils are reduced to arbitrary numbers. I have come close to being one of the 18 per cent of teachers who leave in their first years, and not because of the challenges brought on by teaching pupils from inner city London, but because of the way pupils in inner city schools can be treated. I am grateful that I came through a system where I wasn't a number with a preordained expectation for exams years in advance.

What I do remember are the friends I made (the friends I still have) and the relationships I built, including those with teachers. I remember my Year 8 lab partner much more than the test score I got on the rock cycle.

Those friendships will provide my fondest memories from my first year. The complexities and the diversity that exist within inner London have allowed me to marvel, smile and be proud to have observed a friendship blossom between a Mongolian boy and a Ghanaian boy.

I have watched as their enthusiasm for their learning has bonded them. I've seen how their camaraderie, the tutoring they give each other and the extra work they ask for has helped them progress more than through persistent testing.

This small glimpse of humanity has allowed me not to forget that school is as much about personal experiences, the people you meet and the friends you make, as the marks you achieve. And while the pupils will never forget this, I can't help thinking the bureaucrats of education have.

Ryan Lewis is a new teacher at Wembley High Technology College, north-west London.

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