Superwoman gets physical

29th September 2000 at 01:00
Michael Duffy talks to Julia Tomlinson, finalist in this year's Teaching Awards.

Julia Tomlinson's colleagues at Langdon school in Newham,east London, call her "Superwoman" - a name that suggests that even here, in the context of a 2,000-pupil specialist sports college, this young PE teacher has an unusual range of skills.

Julia disclaims this. "It's a great school," she says, "and a great department. The whole school has helped to turn me into the teacher I am." Talking to her, though, you quickly sense that in teaching terms she is special.

Winner of the outstanding new teacher category in the south-east, she has certainly packed a lot into her two years at Langdon. She has taught and coached aerobics, netball, football, gymnastics and athletics, helped set up a Lawn Tennis Association-sponsored coaching project, taken a Year 8 girls' area cricket team to play a cup final at Lords and swapped headers (and advice) with England football manager Kevin Keegan. "'What you need, Kevin,' I told him, 'is more in attack and less in defence'."

Julia's infectious energy and enthusiasm reaches the sort of children who in many schools dislike PE - the unathletic or physically awkward, and especially the disabled children.

"There is no setting by ability in PE here," Julia explains. "Students work with students. Often, its the potential troublemakers, the ones who feel awkward themselves, who are best at helping others to learn - to be able to say, at the end of every lesson, 'I've learned something today. I feel better for it. I've enjoyed it'."

Now in her third year at Langdon, and still just 25, Julia has new responsibilities as deputy head of department. But she still has a lot of fun teaching dance and games to top juniors as part of the Langdon's beacon partnership with its primary schools. In school time or after school, in term time and in holidays, she is working with youngsters, training them, enthusing them. "Ooh Miss, I hope you win," they tell her, excited about the finals of the Teaching Awards.

For herself, she's apprehensive. "I wouldn't know what to say," she confesses. You have a feeling, though, that she would find the words. She has a story to tell about teaching, and there are a lot of people out there who ought to hear it.

The national final of the Teaching Awards at the Millennium Dome will be broadcast on BBC1 on November 5

JULIA'S TOP TIPS

Don't fear new ideas

Don't be afraid of pushing boundaries. It's how people learn

Listen to the kids' ideas

Always plan - but be prepared to change your plan if something doesn't work

Enjoy it. Who is going to enjoy something you don't?


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