Teaching is about more than just facts

When you look at the current teaching curriculum, you could be forgiven for thinking that what goes on in schools is essentially about rote learning a whole load of facts. That teaching is about enabling children to name grammatical terms, that in my day weren’t learnt until university. And that essentially our sole aim is to tick as many boxes as possible.

And I’m sure there are teachers, and probably schools out there that are doing just that.

For most of us however, very little of that is why we became teachers.

We became teachers to inspire children, to create a sense of excitement about learning, to encourage children and young people to follow their passions.

And whilst I won’t deny, that the new curriculum makes that harder to achieve on the ground than it ever has been. The truth is that if you are determined you can still do it.

This morning we watched the Domino’s pizza, Kit Kat and John Lewis’ famous Christmas adverts to analyse persuasive techniques. We laughed together at the humorous parts. We built relationships by sharing ideas. I then went on to dole our pizza and cake as we worked on fractions and maths.

If I’m honest, the healthy eating brigade would probably have had a fit.

But today I can honestly say that every one of my children learnt something, and every single one was engaged. I can also pretty much guarantee that our fractions lesson will be one they won’t forget in a hurry.

Differentiation was easy, and there were times when the whole class had their hand up, desperate to be chosen to answer questions. Students whose nerves normally stop them participating, and others who really struggle with maths really pushed themselves out of their comfort zone today.

Meanwhile the maths stars in the class were pushed to answer questions about equivalent fractions, and were utterly delighted by some of the answers from their peers.

Yet, from what turned into my most exciting lesson of the year, there is no evidence in books.

I cannot capture the mood in the room and bottle it, I cannot record it to show Ofsted.

And I would by lying if I said that that wasn’t a worry.

In an age where keeping evidence is everything, we often have to stop and think. We have to play the game, to prepare for our books being looked at, analysed, scrutinised. 

Today it looks as though we did nothing. And yet I can hand on heart say my children learnt more than they have in any other singular lesson I have taught all year.

They all made progress. And I was proud of every single one. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am fan of evidence keeping, of demonstrating progress of showing development. But somewhere the balance needs to shift.

I am in no doubt that more lessons like today’s would benefit my students.

But I am equally in no doubt, that because we must record, and be assessed they have to be limited. 

Somehow we need to shift the agenda, gradually maybe, but with certainty. The focus has to shift back to creating a generation who love to learn, who want to learn, who believe they can learn.

After all, isn’t that what we want for our children?

Teaching is about more than facts