Last week on Twitter, I saw a tweet which really made me think. @Teachingideas said: “If your children could describe your teaching in one word, what would it be?” I began to wonder what my children would actually say if I asked them. So, I did.

One post-it, one word, no names, no repercussions.

It took a couple of attempts: I told the children that anyone who had written down what they thought I wanted to see should come and get another post-it and have another go. Half the class came back. Then I told them that anyone who had commented on me and not my lessons should also come and get another post-it. Half of those who were left came back. I’m not sure that “pretty” or “funny” are really the best words to describe my lessons! But, after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing and a fairly hefty pile of post-its, I think we got there.

There was, of course, the predictable pile of good/fantastic/amazing comments that some of the less discerning children wrote down. “Challenging” came up a few times. “Easy” came up once (note to self – more differentiation needed there), but the overwhelming response seemed to be “fun”.

I can live with that.

Could there have been a better response to this? I’m not sure. If they had all come back to me saying that my lessons were challenging, then I guess a big box would have been ticked. Had they all said they were easy, well, I would have been in trouble. But fun? Does that mean that they are all learning? I think they are.

Fun, to me, indicates motivation. Motivation indicates a desire to do well, which increases the children’s chances of succeeding. If the children are enjoying what they are doing, then they are more susceptible to learning. I’m really glad the children are all having fun: I made a conscious effort at the start of this year to change my teaching approaches. It’s all too easy to slip into lazy habits: churning out old lesson plans, opting for “sit down and get on with it” activities, photocopying lots of worksheets. Of course, there’s a place for reusing old ideas. Why reinvent the wheel every year? And if a lesson works really well, why change it just for the sake of it? But it’s too easy to rely on lessons that aren’t that great, just because they’re already planned.

This year has been a great year for me. A new year group, a new curriculum; I made a conscious effort to avoid any old plans and to start again from scratch. It’s been a lot of work, but it has actually been refreshing and invigorating. We’ve made human molecular structures, pretended to be Roman emperors, based literacy around CBBC characters, invented rainforest animals and even made poo. I’ve been as excited by lots of the activities as the children, perhaps even more so. I do wonder if this is part of the reason why the children think the lessons are fun: they can see I’m enjoying myself too. I’m actually enjoying planning – something I’m not sure I’ve ever really experienced before. I’m loving trawling the internet for new ideas, searching through Pinterest to find what others have been doing. Twitter continues to amaze me: there are so many inspirational teachers out there doing fantastic work which isn’t always quite within my reach at school, but who give me ideas as starting points. I’d like to think that perhaps one day, others might look at some of my ideas and think that they’re pretty good too. We talked a lot at our staff meeting tonight about inspiration being a key to successful learning. That’s what I’d like to be: an inspiration. I’d like to be that teacher that someone, one day, says: “I remember her. She was the reason I…” I’m not sure I’ve ever really felt that strongly about it before, I’ve just really got on with the job. A colleague told me tonight that I was her inspiration. It was said slightly tongue-in-cheek, but mostly seriously, and it almost made me cry.

I know I can’t be an inspiration to everyone: there are always going to be children who don’t like my way of teaching or who think I’m too strict, and staff who are willing me to shut up about another crazy idea I’ve found online, but if we can all come to school and have fun while we’re learning, then perhaps this year might just be a memorable one for us all.

And for any teachers out there who are brave enough to ask, find out from your children what their word would be.

One post-it, one word, no names, no repercussions.

I dare you.

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2 thoughts on “One word. I dare you.

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