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Avoiding Ossificaton


I learned how to use commas from my Geography teacher. His voice is still in my head: ‘Greatness Farm comma an arable farm comma lies on the fertile plain full stop’.
I attended a good grammar school in the 70s and wrote down the notes dictated to me from his old exercise book. I know he was still dictating those self same notes to first years when I left the school seven years later.

That teacher was caring, efficient and well-intentioned, but perhaps he had ossified; rather than having thirty years experience, he seemed to have had one, thirty times. I suppose that that is what I feared I might become.

@HuntingEnglish’s excellent piece on ‘Doing it all Again in September’ brought that home to me today. I remember the old teachers in the staff room in my first teaching post more than thirty years ago. They were good people, but there was an endemic cynicism to change. Simon Armitage’s line in November ‘We are almost those monsters’ flits distressingly thorough my mind as I catch myself saying ‘we’ve done this before, only we called it …’ Every so often I become a pioneer because I find an old skill back in fashion.

Teaching has become the political football kicked by the latest Minister keen to make a name before looking for promotion to a higher league. New ideas are introduced in the knowledge that they will be judged by action rather than the result in the rapidly changing world of British schooling. So as teachers, we sometime find ourselves writing material for a new course which we read in the newspapers is already scheduled to be replaced and the curriculum changed yet again.

There’s little danger of repeating the same experience many times, but there is a danger of becoming cynical to change and innovation and trying to do things better. But that cynicism can be resisted. Despite all that has happened, I think that these are exciting times to be in education. I have a growing sense of being in this with like-minded individuals who genuinely care about the students, about learning, about the future. Taking part in Edmodo 2012 last week – my first online conference – was a fantastic experience. It felt like taking a seat it largest classroom in the world, and it was a privilege to feel a part of a profession which spans the globe. It was the first time I have actually felt a part of the global community I hear so much about.

So in these last few years of teaching, I hope to be able to look again at what is important to my students and their learning. I think that technology can help achieve those goals. I don’t think it is everything, but I think it is a great tool that we must embrace. I want to be involved in that learning too. The last few months with my iPad and Twitter and Flipboard have had a huge impact on my thinking, and I want that journey to continue.

September is on its way. iPads are a possibility next year. I trailed Edmodo last term and liked the look of it and want to develop it with my English classes. I’m involved in an exciting course which combines three Humanities areas but keeps a focus on developing learning skills. Yes, I think I should be able to avoid ossification for another year at least.


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