I watched the BBC’s Teaching Awards programme last night. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t find it a joyous and moving event, and the concept of recognising teaching in this way is one of David Puttnam’s finest achievements. Seeing some of the winning teachers in operation- like Llew Davies from Ysgol Cae Top School, who won Teacher of the Year – is genuinely heart-warming, but I was struck by the number of senior managers or students who said ‘ If all our teachers were like him/her…….’
And, of course, therein lies the problem. The winning individuals are often described as ‘charismatic’ or as having a ‘great personality’, but they are not exactly transferable skills. So I was left wondering whether what a teacher, one who is perhaps struggling in the classroom, might take=away from seeing the clips. Would they think they needed to dress up like an Avatar character, or perform tricks with coke bottles to get their kids engaged?
I hope not, because we have to find ways to identify and then transfer the pedagogical approaches that define great teaching and learning, not simply hope that we can find more of the ‘born teachers’ to work in our schools. We can’t allow ourselves to believe the ‘born-not-made’ cliche, because that leaves too many students futures to chance. Nor can we reduce the craft of teaching into a series of ‘top tips’ for classroom management.
The task we set ourselves in the Learning Futures programme is to seek out successful methods which engage more learners, and then turn them into transferable tools, which don’t rely on the personality of the teacher, in order to work. Our next pamphlet ‘Engaging Schools’ is now available (you can download it here) and we’ve tried to highlight some approaches which our Learning Futures schools have found effective. This year also see the publication of a number of practitioner tools.
The demands of TV probably wouldn’t allow for a follow-up programme to the Teaching Awards show, where inspiring teachers could demonstrate the methodology behind the perceived magic, but they don’t get to be that good by personality alone. Let’s by all means shine the light on the star pedagogues, but let’s also find ways to share pedagogies which we can all use. We all remember a great teacher, but too few of them get to show how they do it.