TES letters

30th May 2014 at 01:00

My light-bulb moment: let's celebrate difference

I am writing to express my thanks to the writer of "So what if I can't spell? I'm still a good teacher" (Professional, 16 May). I am a recent PGCE graduate who works as a supply primary teacher and absolutely loves teaching. However, since I was a child I have struggled with handwriting, spelling and maths. I longed to be diagnosed as dyslexic because then I would get some help but I was never tested.

My lack of confidence with these basics put me off going into teaching for ages. Yet in my other life, I am a writer. I have a master's degree in screenwriting and have had scripts produced and plays performed professionally.

My light-bulb moment occurred in my teenage years when electronic typewriters started to appear and I taught myself to touch-type. I never looked back. Yet I decided against teaching initially because my handwriting was illegible, I found spelling tricky and I didn't even know my times tables.

Another light-bulb moment came when I took an adult maths course. The teacher made me realise that although I found it difficult to retain the basics, I was actually quite talented at the more complex (and creative) problem-solving elements of maths. I took the plunge and applied for a PGCE course and passed with a grade of outstanding.

I am learning to be open with the children - I show them the resources and techniques I use to overcome my difficulties. But I am less open with my peers. Spelling and maths are important. I get it. However, there is a certain snobbery around these areas. I believe that if we celebrate difference in students, it must follow that this should also be celebrated in teachers.

Name and address supplied

In praise of the parental perspective

Reflecting on the article "Raise children and raise your game" (23 May), I realised that I have no means of comparison, since my children were born before I became a teacher. The improvements in my practice that I have experienced have come more from my relationship with the parents of my pupils. Having watched my own children progress through secondary school, I can comment from experience. I understand the anxiety of a parent as their child enters Year 7 and must tackle the complexities of a two-week timetable and different teachers for every subject. I have been through the challenges of choosing options and I am on my second set of GCSEs - this time coupled with A-level exams.

What I have picked up as a parent, I have incorporated into my repertoire as a teacher. Two years ago when my elder son was taking his GCSEs, we learned the importance of revision planning. Now, as a Year 11 tutor, I put his revision plan on the wall of my classroom as an example for my tutees to follow.

So I can't comment as to whether, as a parent, I am a better teacher. What I do know is that I can empathise with the parents of my pupils by drawing on my own experience.

Sarah Longshaw

Head of science, Eaton Bank Academy, Cheshire

Experienced, expensive and shown the exit

Like the author of "Want to quit teaching? I would kill for your job" (Professional, 23 May), I have encountered barriers to gaining employment as an experienced sociology and psychology teacher. As with teaching professionals in many sectors, I was the victim of staff reductions brought on by funding cuts. Since then, I have had short temporary periods of teaching and teaching-related roles but with a substantially reduced salary.

I am also eager to permanently re-enter the teaching profession. Although I have attended many interviews, invariably a newly qualified teacher is offered the job and the feedback is usually unhelpful and contradictory. Despite being far more qualified and experienced than the successful candidates, reading between the lines I am, apparently, too expensive. Employing older workers has many benefits which seem to be disregarded by education institutions.

Experienced teachers can make many effective contributions to improving educational standards but our immense knowledge seems to be ignored. Equality and diversity characterise so many employment areas, except it seems in recruiting older teachers. We have encountered innumerable changes in education and, to survive, have proved our competence, adaptability and perseverance. I am not anti-NQTs but I would appeal to education institutions to consider the merits of recruiting experienced teachers, as in the long term they are likely to be better value.

Harriet Carter

South Wales

Bias and borders

I refer to your report accusing leading Jewish schools of showing political bias by using maps that apparently do not indicate "the boundary lines between Israel and the Palestinian territories" ("The Jewish students redrawing the map", 23 May).

There are no such boundary lines. Rather, there is the so-called "Green Line", which is merely an armistice line agreed upon in 1949. This is not an internationally recognised boundary, less still a "border", as you quote one pupil as alleging.

Professor Geoffrey Alderman

University of Buckingham

What has neuroscience ever done for us?

Much is being made of the potential of neuroscience for education, although the claims made by neuroscientists themselves are more guarded ("The enigma of the teen brain", 23 May). Can those non-neuroscientists obsessed with this new "holy grail" point to any finding that has revolutionised, or even has the potential to transform, our educational understanding, policy and practice?

Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

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