This is my last blog for teaching and learning today as I move on to pastures new and a new role as Assistant Head. I wanted my final article to be on continuing the preparation for linear exams, so here is my last bit of advice.
Let’s be sensible and pragmatic in our preparation. Knowing your students is key but this is nothing new. Knowing where they are at ( data analysis) and setting aspirational targets (positive mindset meets praying-for-wind-to-be-blowing-in-right-direction on the day) is the norm now. This isn’t rocket science or mystic snake oil. It’s common sense and that’s what we need to keep sight of as teachers. Let others lose their heads; we need to be both dogmatic and pragmatic in our approach.
Yes, we need to make sure they are examinations-ready; but shouldn’t we have been doing this anyway? Reintroducing mock exams is one suggestion. I’m old school and never understood why some schools got rid of mock week in the first place.
But knowing a student’s data and making them sit countless mocks does not make a student learn. What makes them learn is engagement and interest in the subject – not examinations on it. What makes them learn is probably the same thing that motivated us to go into teaching in the first place: the love and passion we have for our subject – our ceaseless attempt to engage students in learning and capture the joy of learning. Dare I even mention here the f word? Yes learning should be ‘fun’, for the very reason that these are the lessons students remember and remembering is key to success.
If fun seems too much for you to handle in the run up to Christmas, think about the word ‘engagement’ instead. How can you ensure a student is engaged in learning? Because a student may sit a hundred mock exams (a ridiculous exaggeration to prove my point!) but they will never find joy in exam sitting!
If anything, it will ensure students lose the love and joy they associated with a subject and surely that will lead to a real decline in those opting for that subject at a higher level. Education has never been, and never will be, about death by testing. Yes, data has its place; but it is not the driving force for improvement. That comes from you, the teacher. Think of a lesson you loved and you will remember the lesson, the teacher, an anecdote or some crazy antic – you never remember a test! So let’s get back to being sensible – teaching and learning is central to improvement – not data, which simply informs it. Love your lessons and students will learn.
I recently saw a fantastic speaker, Rita Pierson, on Ted Talks deliver one of the most inspirational talks I have seen in a long time. She talked about champions in teaching ( of whom I have worked with many) and is the very reason we are all teachers. If you do one last thing before the Christmas holidays I would advise you to watch this:
Enjoy and goodbye.