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  • Writer's pictureSam

Do You Remember How School Made You Feel?

Why Teachers Need To Remember.

Photo credit: Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

There I was, a 10 or 11-year-old girl, sat across from a teacher in a school hall doing an interview for the secondary school I wanted to attend. “Is there anything that you’re worried about starting secondary school?” the teacher asked me nicely. “Yes,” I said “Homework,” “What about it are you worried about?” “I don’t want to do it,” I said, shrugging as if this was the simplest, most obvious thing in the world; my poor mother, in the background, doing an almighty facepalm. And I didn’t do homework. I would later go on to remind all my teachers, who gave me constant homework detentions, that I did in fact warn them that this would happen…

If you’re anything like me, or most people I know, you probably didn’t have a great time in school. I can remember hating most things about school. I hated having to wear a uniform (I’m in the UK, uniforms are standard here), I hated having to go to classes that I wasn’t interested in; I hated having to do homework. But, when I boil it down, what I really hated, was not being allowed to make choices about my own life. I don’t think that hating school should be the norm And, I find it worrying that it is. We send our children to school en masse and just find it normal that they hate every second. I’m a teacher in training now. I decided I didn’t want to teach in schools, because most hate it. I want to teach in colleges. Colleges are where teenagers and adults go to learn vocational skills to start work, more or less. However, I have hit a snag: Most teens hate college, too. Sure they’re happy that they’ve gotten to choose what they’re doing, but so many of the students come in having had a terrible time at school (particularly the vulnerable students that I work with in Learning Support), they can’t help but feel like this is just more school, and therefore vent their frustrations at college instead. A Teachers Role In my PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education, the typical teacher training course in the UK), my first assignment was to talk about the roles and responsibilities of a teacher. We didn’t have a very big word count, and so in the essay, I mostly talked about the obvious: Facilitating learning, checking that learning is taking place, etc. However, I did talk about some of the roles and responsibilities that I think are very important to teaching, that being: Creating a Safe Place For Students to Feel Like They Can Be and Express Themselves Bringing Fun Into the Classroom. Let's talk about those a bit. A Safe Place For Expression Many students get the message in school that what they think and feel doesn’t matter, they just need to get their heads down and get on with their work. The “Seen and not heard” type of mentality. To this sort of attitude, I have one question: Have You Even Met Teenagers? Most teens are at a point in their life where they are starting to try to make sense of the world in their own ways, not to mention the fact that their bodies have just introduced them to a whole host of new emotions and feelings that they can’t even describe yet (why do you think music so strongly speaks to teens?). I try to and often succeed, in getting students to voice their opinions on deep and important matters. I teach zoology and marine biology, so this isn’t hard as sustainability and climate change are big topics in this area. I’ve had many students say that this is the first time that they’ve felt like their opinions have value and are sought after in a school setting. If this isn’t a little heartbreaking, what planet are you on? These young people have thoughts and feelings that are valid! I get genuine feelings of excitement at the thought of being able to help them develop those real-world adult skills that they’re going to need out there. The idea that teachers aren’t doing this everywhere is quite upsetting, as I don’t personally see how there is anything more important really than teaching our young people how to develop the way they feel about the world's big issues.

Imagine the world we could have where all young people's thoughts are feelings are nurtured and guided in a place where they feel free to express themselves? I think this is the world that most teachers want for their students, but sadly because of being overworked, stressed and the pressures of the curriculum mean many teachers miss these opportunities for discussion and nurturing of the student's abilities. I do think, however, that this can be a hell of a lot better if teachers took the time to really remember their time at school. How much better would it have been, how much more engaged in lessons would you have been, if you’d have felt that your teacher respected you and the individual thoughts you brought to the classroom? Bringing Fun Into The Classroom Do you learn when you are bored stiff by the person trying to teach you something? Didn’t think so. Why on earth do we expect students, particularly young students, to learn from boring lessons? I’m guessing a couple of things at play here:

  1. Many teachers are overworked and don’t feel like they have the time for creative lesson planning

  2. There is still this idea that students should look up to teachers with something akin to awe, eagerly eating up every word they say.

Number 1 has its own problems that I’m not really going to go into great detail on, but mostly my opinions are: More funding for schools & colleges, not necessarily to raise teacher salaries (though I wouldn’t be opposed to that), but to hire more teachers to share the workload and free up teacher time. Number 2 however, is an attitude of old that is dead in the water, yet some still flog it hoping it’ll stand back up and do a dance. It’s long dead and rotting people. Let it go! Sorry, but your students will not look up to you anymore like this bastion of wisdom. You're just a person, and more importantly, a person taking them away from their valuable screen time. Why should give you their attention and focus? Because this will matter later in life? That doesn’t mean anything to them! Did it to you as a teen? What a nice segway into reminding you lovely readers of the point of this whole article: Teachers need to remember what it’s like to be a young person! You, metaphorical teacher I’m addressing this too, might think now that you should have listened to your elders when you were younger because the elders were right after all, and now you think that your realisation will be the key to convincing today's teens that they should just listen. Well, adults have been trying to do that for the last 10,000 years of human evolution and have not succeeded, but hey, maybe you’ll be the one to crack it… It is a responsibility of a teacher in this day and age to make your lessons fun and engaging There is so much distraction out there in the world now that you have to compete with for your student's attention, and most of them just want to be on a screen of some sort (which is fine, me too if I’m honest, I’m on a screen right now writing this!), so you have to give them a reason to want to be there. And I also believe that we, as teachers, have a responsibility to show young students that, as you get older, fun doesn’t need to be sacrificed

If we don’t bring these fundamental things to our teaching, we are failing so many students. We’re telling them they don’t matter, they just need to shut up and do what we tell them, and also that life is no longer fun when you pass about 10 years old. Those things are heartbreaking. What a dull, horrible world that is to live in, oh wait, that’s kinda what we’re suffering with right now aren’t we? People believe they don’t matter and that they shouldn’t spend their life engaging in things that bring them joy. Well, I think I know how we can go about changing that, and it starts in the education setting.

This has been the essay I really wanted to write for my teacher's training.

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1 Comment

Bravo. I loathed school. It had a detrimental affect on the rest of my life!! Horrifically bullied age 8 by a TEACHER..That was that for me . I just closed down

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