Many teachers spend too long focussing on how to keep every child in their class engaged in their lessons. If they switch the focus to finding new ways to keep themselves (the teacher) engaged, the class will follow. Enthusiasm is contagious.
It’s probably the most undervalued weapon that a teacher has. It’s a lot easier to dig out the same resources you used with your class last year, but putting the effort into making it fresh for yourself can benefit hugely in the long-term.
Each hour spent researching new techniques improves your teaching for the rest of your career and makes planning for other subjects easier. It also improves the experience of your class and therefore their results will improve and teaching will be made easier.
Sounds great. But what does that mean and how do I do it?
It starts at the source. Push yourself to find out how other organisations teach the same or similar topics. This doesn’t have to take up your valuable time away from school. Include it in your everyday life. Instead of listening to BBC Radio 2 on the way to work, make a habit of listening to the ‘You’re Dead to me’ or ‘No Such Thing as a Fish’ – two excellent podcasts explaining complex topics in simple ways. Instead of taking your family to the cinema on Sunday afternoon, visit a local museum. Use the money you saved at the (usually free) museum that you would have spent at the cinema to buy some resources. I recently bought a pack of flashcards of the monarchs of Britain. These all include portraits of the monarchs too, and therefore help me put a name to a face. It also helps bring some chronology and context to historical events whilst featuring some useful facts on the back. These could even be used as a display in the classroom as a history timeline.
Talking to staff at museums is also a great idea. Museums often host school groups and are encouraged to engage children and young people in history and local heritage, so they will often openly share resources and their techniques of presenting history to young people. I even know some staff who have volunteered to visit schools and answer questions that children may have.
It’s also worth asking other teachers in the staff room or on social media if they have any interesting ways of teaching that topic. Far too many teachers use YouTube or TES as their first port of call. A post I put on Facebook about medieval history put me in contact with a friend’s father who has authentic-feel replica weaponry which he has kindly lent to me. This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t asked.
My advice for this year would be to be brave, reach out to others, and try something new. I aim to visit a new museum each month and listen to a podcast episode whilst commuting on Mondays.
Start the year as you mean to go on.
Create some positive habits that will improve the experience of you and your class.
Enjoy 2020 and I hope to see you soon.