Joy and knowledge

Just one learner…

A memory.

2009. I had just aced a microteach: instructional writing with the use of LEGO and paper planes.

It was the first time I had really tried to teach anything and I was completely hooked! The buzz of seeing my ideas come to life was an addiction that I would not tire of or require rehab for.

I had ‘made it through’ to the delight of the afternoon interview. I remember the boardroom I was interviewed in as it was a ‘classroom’ (lack of adequate classroom space) one year later in which I would be ‘teaching’ (because I’ve always been pretending to be a teacher really) a group of what seems like tens of NEET learners now but was probably just about 12.

What I also remember about the interview is the moment when I was asked the following question:

‘What would success in the classroom look like to you?’

I responded confidently and without hesitation:

‘Well, when learners get what I’ve been teaching and start to make progress’ (probably quite good).

‘By the end of the year, even if I was just to get one learner through their exams successfully then that feeling would be fantastic- that I’d made a difference even just to that one learner’ (probably not so good).

In no uncertain terms, I was firmly informed that getting one learner through their exams was not acceptable and that I needed to understand that far more was required of me than that. Stats were thrown my way and not for the first time, they didn’t make much sense to me. Further down the line, my interviewer turned out to be a woman of high expectations who challenged and encouraged me to become the teacher I am today. I still never did get used to the stats: learning’s surely far too complex to be diluted down to a set of numbers.

My toes squirmed as I was asked to nod in agreement that I had been blind to the reality of things. Obviously what I had just said was incredibly naive and it certainly came from the mind of someone who had just entered the world of teaching and certainly the world of further education for the first time. I left the room with a hot face and a feeling of having ruined my chances of securing the job. It turns out that my microteach and other question responses had been enough to convince them that I would get more than one learner through their exams.

I don’t think, over the last 6 years, that as exams hit I haven’t thought about that interview and that question in particular. Obviously, any teacher has the desire for all of their learners to do well but the deep satisfaction at the feeling that I could have had a lasting impact on just one of them has never gone away.  And lasting impact is about so much more than grades, or at least in the mind of a teacher who hopes that’s true.

My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

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A large book open at its spine. The two middle ages are folded inwards to create a heart shape

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