18th November 2005 at 00:00
Want to know how an origami flower can illustrate the eight-fold path of Buddhism? Bill Hicks suggests you pay the subject forums a visit

Why does anyone want to be a teacher? It may sound ludicrously old-fashioned, but the reason I found compelling at 22 was the idea of getting paid for telling other people - OK, children - about things you were deeply interested in. You'd think such way-out notions would immediately turn to dust on exposure to the realities of the school system today. And yet, across the TES forums, there's plenty of evidence that teachers still love to hone their subject knowledge.

Recently, for example, in the History forum, a teacher wanted to know roughly how much a Second World War soldier's uniform weighed, "including woollen garments, guns, etc". The idea was then to get children to lift a bag of the same weight, so they would understand how difficult it would be to wade through water.

It took a couple of days, but an authoritative answer arrived: "First wave troops on D-Day would have been carrying between 60-70lb of equipment,"

wrote Hereward. "The bulk of the load would have been ammunition and water.

Machine gunners and mortar men would have carried more and combat engineers even more than that." At about the same time, in Religious Education, a teacher was asking for "imaginative ideas" for teaching the eight-fold path of Buddhism to a Year 9 group "in one 45-minute lesson".

This time there was no delay and no shortage of responses to what, to me, seemed quite an abstruse line of enquiry.

Flame108 recommended "getting them in groups to represent their own eight-fold path visually", but added, "it is such a shame that a central focus of Buddhism ends up being relegated to one 45-minute lesson. I suppose that's the reality of being in mainstream RE."

Glamourpuss explained how to approach the topic using an "origami-style lotus flower" or "fortune teller": "The four noble truths can be written on the inner folds, while the eight-fold path appears on the eight outer triangular folds.

"I like to think it shows that the four noble truths are a kind of inner belief, while the eight-fold path includes the behaviours that can be seen from the outside..."

Then, in the generous spirit that prevails in the subject forums, glamourpuss offered to email the worksheets to others. The requests came in, a great idea was disseminated, no money changed hands, and a few more Year 9 kids will perhaps get some inkling of one of the central tenets of Buddhism in one 45-minute lesson.

News from another area of the Staffroom was less uplifting. For some time we have been petitioned by unemployed teachers to open a forum just for them. We did, last week, and it was instantly busy.

We're aware of problems being faced by recently qualified teachers and supply teachers in many parts of the country, and hope this might at least focus attention on the issue. Already, bitter arguments have broken out over the impact of workforce reform on the jobs market. Alongside these are the personal stories of disappointment and rejection - and the occasional lucky break. We'll keep this forum open for as long as it is needed; nothing worse than to see trained talent wasted.

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website. www.tes.co.ukstaffroom

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