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The Teacher’s Core Purpose

I’m fundamentally reflecting on my own classroom practice and the curriculum that most secondary schools deliver. When I started teaching I wasn’t really sure what a good teacher looked or sounded like, I could only really build on my own experiences as a pupil and pick the best parts of my favourite teachers at school. Everyone remembers their favourite teacher and mine was Mr. Saunders at the now closed down Habergham Sixth Form in Burnley. He was a genius at inspiring his groups to achieve great outcomes, you trusted him and pushed yourself as you did not want to let him down. I have built my entire teaching style around him and hopefully not done too bad a job!
Relationships are the absolute cornerstone of any successful teacher, learner interaction, but not our purpose. I hope I’ve been able to inspire learners along the way, but that does not make me a great teacher – I can do more. A recent learner survey revealed that only around 20% of learners nationally enjoy going to school – this shocked me – what are we getting so wrong? ‘Enjoy’ is one of our key aims at Darton.
I’ve been fortunate to have two development experiences that coincided perfectly. I was honored to be asked to co-lead a behaviour for learning session with new Barnsley School Direct staff with Jamie Portman my fellow Vice Principal as part of the Barnsley Teaching Schools Alliance. I began the session with my usual style and as planned Jamie took the second mini session – but instead of the planned activity he decided to ask them to dissect my own style of delivery of that first session. I had purposely planned to include some behavior management strategies, but I was shocked how much they picked out. Every one that was mentioned I recognised, but I was subconsciously doing some of them after years of habit. Teachers make 100+ mini decisions every lesson, great teachers consciously make judgments at these points and get the majority right.
I spent Thursday in London at a conference looking at Curriculum and what that means for our learners. I struggle being out of the school, but I think I’ll look back in the future and pinpoint this as the clear day of change for me personally. It was a strange experience – each speaker challenged my educational preconceptions with brilliant delivery and sound evidence. Dr Debra Kidd (@debrakidd) expertly hosted the event and linked the speakers brilliantly, each complementing one another hitting core themes throughout the day. Johnathan Lear (@guerrillaed) talked with authority over a Blended Pedagogy where curiosity and knowledge can be combined and building space for learning. Simon Cooper-Hind (@innovationined) gave practical strategies to engage key parts of the brain which enable learning to move past the reptilian brain. Another fascinating part was the top 10 needs from learners for the curriculum and how schools don’t generally start with these in mind due to focus on exam outcomes. Carl Jarvis (@carljarvis_eos) showed clear evidence on 7 stages of motivation and how getting learners to ‘want’ to learn or even ‘need’ to learn increases their learning retention rates dramatically. We repeatedly deliver things to learners on a plate where creativity is squeezed to fit in content but are we actually being effective? Can we create experiences where learners are able to define their learning experiences and become intrinsically motivated to retain skills and knowledge over a sustained period?
The day then finished with Hywel Roberts (@hywel_roberts) who I had seen a couple of times before bring his engaging style and was the perfect end to a great day. He has a talent of creating hooks into learning and using tension to make learners want to know more.  We’re hopeful of working with Hywel after Christmas to enrich our curriculum further.
Our Core purpose is ensuring that learners learn well and we create the right environment for this to happen through guiding them through the creative learning process and not simply serving it on a plate. I used this concept with my year eleven group where they created the mark scheme from a given example and then applied this to the next set of questions marking it themselves with their criteria. I know I can make this even more effective in the coming weeks.
(The left hand photo was the previous lesson, the right hand photo showed the same learner deciding he ‘wanted’ to do it neatly and follow his mark scheme which he’d written down and self created)

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