Do I come here often? Um, no, not much anymore... you might have noticed. Seven years have passed since I started "ranting" - that's a whole generation of secondary school students. I've changed schools, roles, and also now, I've realised, attitude. With this new decade I seem to have shrugged off my anger and frustration at the impediments of the job and have just learned to tolerate (or ignore) them. And I can attribute this to two main reasons.
Firstly, there's Twitter. Everybody's heard of Twitter nowadays, and I use it mostly as a personal diary or record of the mundanities I've been up to, and to "chat" with a number of friendly, funny, caring and lovely people from different walks of life. But I also "follow" a great number of enthusiastic and dedicated teachers, whose positivity and enlightening suggestions are inspiring. Some have developed "PLN"s - Personal Learning Networks (I think), which allow them to interact with subject / age specialists around the country and the world. Sure, there are those of us who come home after a tiring day at school and offload in 140 characters, and the beauty of it is that there is always someone there who knows exactly how you feel and cheers you up straight away. But overall, the positive experience that Twitter is for this ranting teacher has made me less ranting and more bantering.
Secondly, there's tutoring. Last year I began private tutoring for the first time, through absolute necessity. I found it immensely awkward to start with, from an ideological angle. I felt unsure about the exchange of money (even though I needed it!) because was it fair for these children to receive such an advantage just because their families could afford it? Then again, if it wasn't me taking the work, somebody else would have. And besides, it wasn't just affluent families who wanted tutoring for their children. The majority were the children of builders and salon owners etc - parents who were used to being paid for their trade. It was often the case that these teenagers had lost confidence in their own abilities, and needed their C grades to get into college. It made me sad to hear of children admitting that they didn't seem to learn anything because they were in a bottom set, and there were too many naughty children hindering their learning.
But what I gained from tutoring almost outweighed anything else: I gained a love of teaching again. I mean, a real passion. Here were children who (with one exception) were concentrating fully, willing and eager to learn, and whose moments of enlightenment were a real thrill to witness. I gained insight into how other schools tackled topics, and widened my own knowledge by researching areas I'd not taught before. And after a day of sometimes tiresome classes, or demanding management, it was quite often difficult to summon the energy to be enthusiastic for another hour or two. But after every tutor session I would feel enthused and energised because I'd had the opportunity to do what I'd entered the profession to do: teach, and make a difference.
And that in turn has had a knock-on effect on my classroom teaching. Working one-to-one with a wide range of abilities has enabled me to see why pupils find some things difficult, and inspired me to try new things I've learnt from their work with my classes. It's like a second-hand Inset: I've learned things from their teachers without having ever met them.
So there we go. Confessions of a not-so-ranting teacher. Because of Twitter and Tutoring I feel much more positive about teaching than I have done for years. That's not to say it's perfect, of course: still plenty to moan about! But I probably won't be saying it here. Instead, you'll find Ranting Teacher over on Twitter, along with a whole world of teachers who will amuse, support and inspire. So if you're not there already, come and say hello!
Tuesday, 24 August 2010
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