A few conversations this year have been had on the difference between stating ideology to improve, and on sharing practical ideas to improve. Of course, both form each other, and the ideology filters the nature of commentary that improves the practical ideas.
Essentially, this is about the need to talk about either practical uses of something, or the evidence behind it. It will talk about how teachers essentially trust the advice of their peers in the same school, because each school is different.
Football is littered with examples of managers that couldn’t adapt, and therefore were terrible. They may have found success in their previous jobs, but perhaps did not truly understand what made them successful. Therefore, they made themselves successful by continuing in a way that worked for them.
What makes a great teacher, I think, is the ability to adapt to those around you. It is to look at the eyes and reactions and work of the students, and wondering why it is not as good as it could be. It is a simple point, often repeated. But it is a true point.
The one caveat, though, is that students need to be pushed outside their comfort zones. They will progress only if they can attach knowledge to what they know already. Failing that, they need to have the character to ‘work with’ knowledge until they can find somewhere to attach it. If they come to secondary school without certain cognitive structures already in place (like ‘inference’, ‘spelling’ or even ’empathy), then learning for them in a mainstream classroom will be difficult to the point of their time being almost entirely ineffectual. For these students, the feeling of being intellectually cut adrift from the lesson is a familar one, and often hated. For them, a teacher really needs to read their mood and mind, because to lose the mind of a pupil who lacks character is to lose management of them, too.
What does this mean when teaching students who do not strive naturally in any part of their lives? There are people who actively resist learning: for these poor souls, it takes particularly expertise and reinforcement and patience (and, perhaps, constructed charisma) to bring them to attach new knowledge to the shaky view of the world that they might have. To those teachers who teach such charges, few accolades are available: to having taught such pupils myself, I feel proud of taking on such a mission. It is not easy. But if you do it for your own reasons, it makes you realise how even those who are affable deserve the same reactionary support – and, of course, perhaps gain more from it.