Lesson 21 on Sharing our Skills and Experience
You will have gathered by now that there were few official guidelines for teaching in the bad old days. Basically, if you were in primary you were there to teach pupils to read, write, count and sit still. If you were in secondary you had to try to get as many of them through their final examinations with as respectable grades as possible. If your pupils weren’t sitting exams, then you had to keep them busy until they got a job.
How you did it was your own business. You were judged by your results and the quietness of your classroom. Unless the disruption levels of your pupils caused inconvenience to neighbouring teachers, no other adult ever came near you.
You had to work things out for yourself. Lesson planning, written down on paper, was a requirement only for your training. Once qualified, most people did it in their head or, at best, in a few notes in their school diary.
So I had to start from scratch and use my common sense when it came to sorting out aims and objectives for my groups. I ended up with two over-arching aims.
- They mustn’t damage themselves, others or the furniture.
- They must be equipped to survive in school and the world after.
From those two basic principles everything else followed. It was necessary to learn:
- to get on with each other, me and other adults without coming to blows
- to read and understand what you are reading
- spoken and written language skills enough to get you by
- and enough confidence to use them.
Basically I just wanted them to start making sense of things. Many of them lived in such confusion that it seemed to me they needed some kind of reliable framework to help them understand, and cope with, the world around them.
In trying to achieve this I was flying by the seat of my pants and there were lots of things I wasn’t good at. Discipline was one. The trouble is, that once you start helping people communicate, they tend to do it a lot and loudly. It is hard to establish that you must talk in turn. We were almost always, in the modern terminology, on task, but just not always in calm, silent rows, with our heads bowed over our books.
One of my pupils decided it was time to help me out here and give me the benefit of her experience. She had thought about it carefully and took the trouble to write down a set of guidelines, for future reference.
When you get a new group you must be nasty to them.
You must not let them get away with anything.
After a few weeks you can start being a bit nice.
After Christmas if they are good you can be nice to them most of the time.
I have her instructions still, in my little box of old teacher’s treasures.