Monday period 5 – A simple and profound lesson to learn

If you are hoping for inspiration for teaching your Monday period 5 jump to the end. My Monday period 5 is my worst lesson. If you are an ex pupil reading this, I do apologise, I can explain. If you are a present student get off this blog and back to the work I set you. When preparing for my week, sorting assemblies, pastoral work for the teams I lead and critical admin or UCAS ref then marking and lesson prep etc invariably there was not enough time. I am a professional, so usually got Monday 1 and 2 and even 3 or 4 sorted but 5…it got left, drafted but left. After all I am SLT I have non contact and so that lesson could be polished in my free. What free? Why have I never ever learnt that my free on Monday got hijacked, maybe cover, maybe someone needing to talk – a sixth former wishing to quit, drop a subject, change subject, or a teacher…… with bothers, with worries….but I never learnt and end up with my meagre prep and the 10 m walk to the lab as I get to Monday period 5. Apologies all round. Thanks timetabler this year first ever no class Monday 5.

BUT one thing got me through, it was always on my mind, or in my mind, in fact in my soul and it goes back to my very first school and the end of my first year of teaching. However I recall it today because it is the school holiday.

Yesterday I arrived in Eastbourne or as my Dad would have said the seaside. As I took an evening stroll, I thought of my Dad and many happy seaside weeks as a kid and one profound ritual. As soon as we arrived we had to go to the beach. Whatever time of day, whatever needed doing, before any bag was unpacked, we all had to go to the beach and paddle in the sea. Just paddle in the brine, Dad thought it was good for us but it was a significant moment it meant the holiday had really started. I did that here in 2014 after arriving and I thought of my Dad, and his ritual is now mine and the holiday has started. Then as I strolled the sea front I though of other significant moments and rituals and I remembered a profound moment that still inspires me the teacher.

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Back in the early 1980’s I had just completed my NQT year, woop woop. I had survived, I could teach, pupils could learn and most pupils even behaved themselves, some enjoyed my lessons, and I quite enjoyed the job. More importantly I learnt from great staff. Many of us might think the pressure of change under Gove or other recent SoS is worse than any other teacher has had to face. I am no Historian but the people who I was learning from were awesome staff. Some had started work just after the war – so stop and think of the changes from 1940’s to 1980’s not just in Education (qualifications, comprehensivisation, secondary moderns, the 11+, ROSLA, graduate teaching, corporal punishment, expansion of primaries, free milk (ohps) etc etc) but think how a grey 1950’s society transmogrified into swinging 60’s and these were the people managing pupils, teaching and learning throughout. I learnt so much. Miss D my Head of house who kept order, not just pupils but staff. Mr H in charge of special needs pupils: every single special needs youngster stood out, their manners, their impeccable behaviour, their progress, their employability, their reliability and willingness to help out even me and I didn’t even teach them. Mr L, another Head of house, formidable – he would never have needed a ‘cane’ that would be an affront but no one ever refused to change when he spoke to them, teacher pupil, even SLT! None of these were PGCE graduates all were wonderful teachers who got the best of results (in the full sense of the word). In my tutor group parents would ring me , the NQT and ask me to get their children dropped several sets just to have Miss D teach them (she never taught O Level!) I wanted to be a teacher to make a difference, to help young people learn my subject and to help them aspire, aim high, and there in my school these wise sages were doing that day in day out, and I was privileged to live with them and learn a few tricks from them.

So my profound moment – the start of the summer term and endless invigilation, no lesson prep, no marking but walking the lanes of exam desks. My HoD and I had been busy deciding what to teach and how to teach ( sorry present generation, this was what the job used to be like) and he asked me a favour. Would I go to the Curriculum meeting for him, he was unable to attend – he had OK’d it but this was the meeting options were given out, we needed the list of those choosing (opting for) Chemistry. I went along scared, rightly so as the pastoral giants took their seats ( hey and they were their seats) and the departmental academics arrived, then deputies and the Head. Top of the agenda the lists: “take them away. let me know any major issues” said the deputy politely. Just a few minutes of silence and nodding heads as the lists were checked, a few sighs of relief from me as most had chosen a Science (only Maths and English were compulsory and that a school thing I recall). But then the moment I’ll never forget. The Head of PE Mr K was clearly sighing, tutting and not happy. The Heads of House never missed a detail.
“Whats up Tony?”
“Oh nothing really”.
“No go on what is it?” Mr L didnt understand ‘nothing really’.
“Well” said Mr K “you all know we are offering CSE PE for the first time and we have worked hard on the resources and curr plans but I look down this list and it’s ..well it’s just depressing.”
“Why is that?” came a curious response from the Head of House.
“Well, if you want an example, we have Jim Jarwood and he …….can’t even swim.”

So as I watched carefully for the reaction, I passed sympathy to Mr K. My HoD and I wouldn’t like anyone pitching in for Chemistry who hadn’t shown some competence in Y9, and someone cack handed, dangerous or unable to sit still.. so what was the reaction:

“Tony” said a smiling Head of House rather cutting the atmosphere
“Yes Bill”
“You’re a bloody PE teacher Tony, teach the lad to bloody well swim.
Next item…….”

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I can’t remember anything else of the meeting but that moment struck into my soul, like my Dad’s holiday ritual. So whenever I am a bit uncertain about my lesson, or facing a cover in French I just remember those words. “Mr Dexter you’re a teacher, teach them.”

Some questions to ponder;

Q1 We often reflect on our lessons and pedagogy but what are the profound moments in schools which have influenced you?

Q2 We might feel the political agenda hinders or even prevents the ambitions we had about being a teacher, does it really?

Q3 The school machine is oiled by the quality of relationships, which people do you seek out for sage advice, and wisdom? Oh and one day will others find you doing that for them?

For those like me working in a church school

Ephesians 1:16
I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

James 3:13
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

Daniel 1:20
In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

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