Stumped? Not any more

13th January 2006 at 00:00
It is ironic that it was while taking a cricket lesson - a game I had never played seriously - that the scales fell from my eyes about teaching.

I was in my first year at a tough comp in Liverpool, teaching English and history. Every Monday third period, I was timetabled for games: rugby and football in winter, then cricket after the Easter break.

I was keen on sport but aware of my deficiencies. Nevertheless, I found myself enjoying the lessons. They were certainly challenging. Because no one had ever showed me what to do for this subject, I relied on a patient and supportive head of department, my own determination to succeed and the boys' enthusiasm.

Plus the transparency of the subject. I watched other staff, saw what worked and what didn't. It was all so obvious to teacher or observer: what the children enjoyed, what held their attention, what helped them progress.

I pinched collegeaues' ideas, adapted them for myself and learned from my mistakes.

In my main subjects - I used to go to sleep in my own history lessons so soon switched to English only - I used to be obsessed with content and frequently tried to cram too much in.

PE, in comparison, made it obvious when pupils were ready to move on.

Lessons soon revealed a very obvious structure: warm-up, teach a skill, then a game designed to emphasise or stretch that skill.

And it was while I had the class in pairs bowling at their own single stumps - to teach them the action and accuracy so that there was maximum participation - that it struck me that this is what I should be doing in English as well.

My love affair with games had borne fruit. A year later I married one of the female PE staff, a relationship cemented.

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