Teaching Beyond the Subject – Guest Post – Luke Rudge (CLF ITT)

As part of my SLE role, I organised and ran a day for the CLF ITT cohort of First Direct Trainee teachers.

The focus was on the holistic development and pastoral care of children. This tied in nicely with our whole academy ethos.

The day was made up of several sessions with various staff as well as being immersed into a Year 11 #realpe lesson and BCA’s Project Phoenix enrichement programme.

Here are some reflections from Luke Rudge (@linguisticluke) who is completing his Placement A with us.

You can read other posts reflecting on his learning on his Blog.

Thanks Luke.

Teaching Beyond the Subject

It’s not very often that I get reminded of the times in my life that I’d much rather forget. Sure, I get those moments where I remember doing something completely embarrassing and wishing that the ground would open up beneath me, just as we all do (…or at least, I hope that we all do), but this week has made me reflect heavily upon a few key points in my education, and my reasoning for wanting to become a teacher in the first place…

Once again, I felt lucky enough to have my topic for the week (Pastoral Aspects of Teaching) complement my location for observation days – an academy where, just over a year ago, there were threats of closure, significant behavioural issues and a pupil roll so small that many primary schools could outnumber them, with a catchment area of one of the most deprived areas of the UK. While this seemed like my greatest challenge so far, the knowledge I gained – and the opinion of the academy as a whole – were much different to that which I was expecting.

To jump on a bandwagon and call someone, somewhere or something “awful,” “under-performing” or “risky” epitomises the experiences this academy has endured. In a “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it” way, it seems as though the past of the academy continues to haunt its present unfairly. The community structures, language employed, and overall ethos of the academy shows a phoenix that is rising rapidly (which is pretty useful symbolically as the phoenix is incorporated into the logos!) from what was a dire situation. Use of vertical teaching, as opposed to traditional horizontal structures, a behavioural system that focusses on the “self” rather than just the “mind,” and continuity and clarity between staff ensure that all students are taught not just to pass a test, but to make their way after school into whatever they’d like to do.

This holistic approach is employed in a microcosmic fashion into lesson planning. Lesson objectives and outcomes can be the typical “Learn x nouns” or “Understand the difference between imperfect and preterite tenses,” but in a PE lesson (volleyball) I took part in today, the outcomes related to teamwork, communication, and just being a well-rounded person. There was no relation to any volleyball-specific rules or techniques; it just seemed implicit that improvement in the sport would come from being a good team player.

As a bit of background, I am pretty bad with sport. This is not only due to a duff knee, but mostly relating to an experience back when I did PE at Secondary School. In the “Let’s play rugby in the freezing cold without any instructions” method of playing, I was unable to score, let alone get a grasp of what to do. The teacher – feared by most – found the best way to motivate me was to pick me up by the front of my collar and shout at me, with all but a centimetre between our faces, to “get better.” From that moment, I loathed PE, so when I was told we would be doing PE today, I was not only out of my comfort zone, but I was mentally sprinting away from it as fast as my dodgy-knee would allow me.

But, the approach taken by the students and staff at the academy had me wanting to learn and to do more. I was shocked by my willingness to play and, at the end of the session, my desire to keep going and to improve. It was the ethos of community and team-spirit that did this, and where the point of this post comes in – If an ethos this strong and all-encompassing can make me want to continue doing PE, then there are methods at play that I must certainly make use of in my own lessons. While knowledge is a key factor in schooling, it must never, ever be forgotten that a child comes to school to prepare for life after school, and it is our duty to teach the whole child.

How easily I can incorporate this approach into an MFL lesson remains to be seen. Perhaps teamwork can be incorporated in a group translation, or peer reinforcement via a conversation group? Right now, I can’t see my students running around a sports hall, but then, I don’t know what invigorates them just yet. Maybe watch this space for the début of the MFL-volleyball technique…?!

And with that, my initial Uni and CPD block is complete! Now it’s time to dive head-first into my placement A and start trying to amass all of this superb information I’ve been given into a working model; to become a teacher of today, and not one where fear is the teachers’ ally.

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