Today, over 300 teachers and heads got together to hear an internationally renowned speaker, Sir John Jones. It was one of those rare INSET days that didn’t fail to inspire all who listened. Sir John is a key advocate of the need for a major paradigm shift in the philosophy of education. His common sense approach, supported by a clear understanding of thescientific theory of teaching and learning made for some challenging thoughts. Sir John challenges teachers to reignite their passion for teaching by reminding them of the influence they have over the children they teach, reminding them of the importance of their profession, and ways to reignite their passion for teaching. Many statistics (sometimes shocking ones) were sprinkled throughout the day, mainly to provide that knee jerk reaction that makes you reflect on your impact on these children in our care.
He challenges us to be ‘water thinkers’ and not ‘rock thinkers’ as water always wins!! We were asked if you had to choose one of the following: knowledge, skills or attitude to give the children that would change their lives, which one would it be? Withour exception, we answered attitude yet education is primarily about developing knowledge. Our curriculum is about the transmission of facts and knowledge and testing memories.
We were then taken through the history of education, brief and to the point. About how having 30 children in a class stems from the number of soldiers in a company that could be controlled by a sergeant. Having a fortnight at Easter came about due to lambing, and six weeks in the summer from harvesting – yet we still adhere to these traditions despite our children not being required to help with these seasonal activities.
Sir John said if we were to read The Times every day for 7 days, the avarage person would learn more about theirr world than was learnt throught the 19th century – technology has a huge part to play in the way we view our world.
Taking the place of the 3 R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic) are the increasing values/skills R’s, like resourceful, reasoning, reflective, responsible and resilience. These skills are vital to the acquisition of knowledge, and how this
knowledge applies to life — even, or especially, in subjects like Science, or
mathematics. Take resilience, for example, if children don’t get maths, the way round is not to teach more maths. The key to improving maths is not giving up when you’re stuck.
Sir John has written a book — The Magic Weaving Business. In which he reminds teachers of how important they are in the lives of young people. He gives us the message, “The good news is, the teacher makes the difference. And the bad news is, the teacher makes the difference.”
Many anecdotes are referred to throughout the day. He was once asked, ‘why do I need a teacher if I have Google?’ He went on to explain that another student answered this searching question by saying that she was going to university to study history because she had a passion for history. This was due to her teacher not teaching her hisgtory BUT she taught her the love of history.
There are many factors whic influence a child’s learning, direction, ambition and achievement — poverty, the breakdown of the family, the neighbourhood, etc BUT if you come across a teacher who is a magic weaver, then it can be life-changing!
We know that teachers make a difference. Ask anyone to name five people who have
influenced their lives and you’re sure to find a teacher among them. We were reminded of who inspired us to teach and have we ever told them so? A recollection of a teacher tracing his old teacher aged 90 via email with the opening ‘You won’t remember me?’ The old teacher replied having attached a photo of his student and recollecting him very well. A following email was sent three days later explaining that the old man had died, but had done so happy with the knowledge of his impact. This indeed was a touching and emotional account. I immediately thought of my teacher Mr Gordon Banks who had done the same for me when I was 10. I wish I had had the opportunity to have told him how much he had meant to me…
A poignant day, full of laughter, joy, reflectiveness, hope and emotion. Probably the best INSET day I have had the priviledge of attending.