The day where I thought I’d gone to hell

By and large the Teach First Summer Institute was excellent, especially the bit in Bristol. It was the first year it had been run there, but was up there with the best training I’ve had across a range of jobs and settings.

All the same, there was the odd off-day.  This post is about one of those rare days and, specifically, about remembering that day when I’m in school teaching.

I’m not going to say which day it was, although any single member of the Teach First South West cohort could tell you. But the day involved us spending 7 hours sitting in one darkened classroom, listening first to a poorly researched, heavily biased two-hour diatribe and then to a half-baked pedagogical approach with no relevance for us as beginning teachers, on a blisteringly hot day, hardly moving from our seats except for a paltry 25 minute lunch break and a poorly conceived venture into the local park to deepen our knowledge of the half-baked pedagogical approach that was the pet project of one of our lecturers.

Unsurprisingly, the day brought out the worst in us as learners. We were disengaged, childish and finding any excuse to cause trouble. The highlight of the day was when several of our colleagues got stuck in a lift for an hour.

The point for me to remember is that days at school will probably feel like this for students, especially those who have been in a lunchtime detention. Whilst not excusing disengagement and poor behaviour, if 38 very committed trainee teachers had (temporarily) given up on life, what can we expect of teenagers whose reason for being at school isn’t necessarily clear to them at the best of times?

Action points for me then are:

  • Always try to consider a lesson from a students’ point of view. How engaging is it? Are they actually doing anything? What about the student in the corner who hasn’t spoken all lesson. Have they spoken all day?
  • When I get students at the end of a long, hot day, consider things from their perspective. Don’t excuse disengagement, but try to surprise them with a lesson they’ll enjoy, rather than being the latest in a long line of tormentors.
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