As many of you will know, I recently made the move from my beloved north to the dreaded south of the country! I sought adventure, career progression and fun. For a long time, I felt none of my aims were being achieved and I know how pointless outstanding targets are if they remain that way.
Highlighted by a discussion with one of my GCSE students this evening, I reflected on a rare outing into the outside world over half term. I visited the National Gallery and had a wholly blissful day with just myself for company. What struck me was that I’ve been to numerous exhibitions over the years. I was even paid to pace the floors of many gallery spaces for a number of those. Whilst the flocks of sheep grazed dumbly in front of the Van Goghs on this particular day, I enjoyed Da Vinci in silence (with a dim mutter of, ‘I don’t recognise this one, let’s go see that sunflowers one’). I marvelled at the Rubens, Cezanne and Degas blisfully undisturbed. I was able to enter each of the gallery spaces and immediately decide what I wanted to see closer and which ones I would waltz right past.
On entry to Reading College, it was a painting I was drawn to, even one that I wished to sit in an armchair and marvel at. Just as the paintings, I can’t really say what drew me to it. It could have been the poised dancers, the beautifully sculpted men or even the round naked ladies, who can say?!
What I can state with certainty is that one of the major draws was access to an English base room. “My room? My very own room?” I’m sure I must have come across as childish and giggly at this particular juncture of the interview. I’d seen a painting I liked very much indeed.
At my previous college I had carted around my box of magic teaching tricks endlessly from one lack lustre home to the next for three long years. I had been performing in cells that had the odd browning flipchart, health and safety notice and compulsory A2 classroom poster with some generic, supposedly inspiring quote emblazoned across it. It is no surprise then that I always felt my teaching was lacking something.
I have never felt comfortable in a classroom, from being a student, right through to being a teacher. A main aim of my teaching has always been to create a classroom environment that feels free, inspiring, exciting and safe. Try doing that with white walls and out-of-date displays relating to subjects that you don’t even teach. I was given an impossible task from the start but I didn’t know it until today.
At Reading, the main strength of my interview was something I had begun to take for granted as just another expected demand of teaching. They were amazed at how I had transformed the classroom so quickly into one that could be used for an active lesson. How could they be so easily pleased by something that had merely become part of my daily routine?
I soon learned why. They were accustomed to the luxury of base rooms.
An unexpected love affair met me at Reading. C6 is the sparkly stage for the magical performances that I had always dreamt of. It motivates me to be a better teacher, it inspires the students to strive for perfection and most of all, it makes me happy
Several wonderful things have happened over the last week:
A student told a senior manager that I was ‘phenomenal’.
A particularly disengaged student told me excitedly about the reading he’d completed as a self-directed task.
I receieved positive feedback from my students about the video I made (more about that later).
I was able to hand back several full mark GCSE essays.
One student turned her attendance and homework submission from completely dire to 100%.
Students, correct that, teenagers (even more of an achievement), laughed and enjoyed 9am lessons.
Students sang and rapped Iago’s songs without inhibitions.
To C6: I owe you a great deal. All of these things happened because of you and I hope you continue to endlessly surprise, inspire and bring happiness. Thank you.