Proud to be a teacher!

Q. What do the following people have in common; Mark Knopfler, Chris Tarrant, Sheryl Crow, Nick Hornby, Frank Skinner, Stuart Maconie, Jim Bowen, Alan Bleasdale, Ian Drury and Sting?

A. They have all worked as teachers. 

What is it that drives us to become teachers? I say ‘us’ as we are different…I don’t mean to offend anybody but there is a certain type of person who becomes a teacher. I love teaching…it is simple as that. It’s not just a job I go to Monday to Friday but a way of life. Teaching has given me the chance to inspire and encourage a young persons mind to love the art of learning. But it isn’t a role that everyone will enjoy. There are of course disadvantages to teaching, so why do it?

Teaching is a popular profession for many graduates. Last year 38,918 (TDA Training Profile 2008) people completed a PGCE. The number of graduates completing PGCE’s has steadily risen over the last few years. It is a role that people find exciting, challenging and extremely stimulating. It is a profession where we are able to move people forward in their aspirations and assist their learning. Friends will know that I sometimes refer teaching to stand-up comedy. You have thirty pupils sitting in front of you expecting to learn. It is up to us to take it upon ourselves and show our worth. We need to work collectively together to make education great. We sometimes get too much bad press and the papers gloss over the successes and achievements that teaching has bought to so many thousands of pupils and students. We must praise each other in this very sacred profession.

Nicholas Hargreaves of Radipole School, Weymouth backs this up by saying, ‘Teaching is a wonderful career choice for anyone. From a young age several teachers and friends helped and encouraged me to aspire to become a teacher. To provide young minds with the knowledge, skills and passion to take control of their lives and become the experts of tomorrow. Personally it has given me the chance to inspire young people with my knowledge and expertise. Working with a group of like minded teachers and young people is extremely inspirational. It is a role I have always been determined to succeed in and work hard for.’

The role teachers’ play in their local community is also central to a student’s development. Schools’ and communities must work collaboratively together for an area to benefit. Economic investment is a necessity with schools. Schools are the training ground for our future generations and they need to be at the forefront of technology for our young learners with the very best facilities for them to achieve their potential. The local community and schools’ must be incorporated into working together to create an ethos of self belief and to achieve their personal best. The community must be involved in their local schools creating community centres, so local people can benefit from the facilities and technology a school has. A community that sees the benefit of an education can help generate our leaders of tomorrow but they must work in partnership with the local schools. We as teachers are the facilitators of this role and can help enrich a wide variety of lives in the process. Working with the local community to enhance the school ethos and help an area develop.

Teaching in my opinion is the greatest role in life that someone can do. To actually see the look of wonder and understanding on someone’s face is something that cannot be bought. To pass on knowledge and see where it takes a young person in life is amazing. To actually help young people in life choose a path in the life with your encouragement and guidance is breathtaking.  

Russell Wait, of Cove School, Hampshire; ‘I was inspired by my secondary school Headteacher who encouraged me from the tender age of 12 to reach my aspirations and goals. I find that teaching is an ever changing occupation that keeps you on your toes. To teach the future generation of Britain with a passionate voice can create change and can only be a benefit for the country.’

Many professionals from industry are turning to a career in teaching because of the many benefits the role brings. They bring with them a vast range of experiences from industry that can only enhance the profession. Experience from outside the classroom and shared with the students is vital. Young people do need to have role models and even though they sometimes might not want to admit it, teachers are a very important one. Only recently the government announced the newly planned PGCE changes where graduates can complete the course in six months. It is very clear that many people want to train as teachers but cannot afford to take a whole year off for training. With the recent credit crisis it is understandable, but it does show that people do want to be teachers.

When former pupils come into my school and remember certain times, events or even lessons, I am proud. Proud to be a teacher, proud to have had a positive effect on somebody’s life, proud to have taken on this honoured to have helped a young person. We have a wide pool of teachers with much experience. Working together we have helped create a career choice for many young professionals. Even Paul McCartney was planning to become a teacher if his band ‘The Beatles’ didn’t make it. Teaching is the best profession and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise! As Batman once said, ‘it isn’t what you say that defines you but what you do’ (Batman Begins, 2005).

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The Book is Dead, Long Live the Book

So it is finally here – the iPad. My initial thoughts were not that good to be honest, but with further research and looking at different points of view I am now starting to see its merits. Firstly, I don’t think it is the nail in the coffin for the traditional book. Most people are very used to this successful formula and will probably not change. But for education purposes it could be successful and make reading more widely available.

Apple has been very clever in the sense that they have announced partnerships with Penguin, Harper-Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and the Hachette Book Group. This enables Apple to set up their own in-house iBooks store like the successful iTunes that is currently available for music. Many people do find this method of shopping very appealing (especially young people).

The text could be enhanced by audio and visuals with the option of linking to the internet. This could help with many disaffected learners in the classroom.

The UK price for an iPad have not been announced but speculation has been around £400-£700 depending on the Wi-Fi scheme chosen and model. This is not cheap and I wonder if discounts would apply to schools?

Would Steve Jobs be willing for my school to trial some out?

Bill Gates Makes $10 Billion Pledge to the World

Last Friday Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder, pledged to make the largest ever single charitable donation with a pledge of $10 billion (£6 billion) for vaccine work over the next decade.

Bill Gates said that he hoped the coming ten years would be the “decade of the vaccine” to reduce dramatically child mortality in the world’s poorest countries. It is calculated that his pledge could save more than 8 million lives.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said up to 7.6 million children under 5 could be saved through 2019 as a result of the donation. It also estimated that an additional 1.1 million youngsters would be saved if a malaria vaccine can be introduced by 2014. A tuberculosis vaccine would prevent even more deaths.

This is a very generous and fantastic gesture from one of the world’s richest people to help reduce child mortality in developing nations. His foundation plans on bringing innovation to health and learning to the global community. But is there more that the world could do?

Phone’s For You!

The intrusive ringing and sounds of a mobile phone maybe the future of education. This is a very bold statement for a teacher to make. In the majority of schools mobile phones are banned, but that maybe changing across the country. Mobile phones are an untouched resource that could be more of a help then a hindrance.

The technology available to us as teachers is immense and is changing at a rate faster than we are able to keep up with. Students and pupils are far and away ahead of us as teachers when it comes to technology. As a teacher we are forever changing our teaching methods and resources. Mobile phones could help enrich a subject and make it more widely available for all students to participate.

This is not a new argument; The Daily Telegraph stated on 4th September 2008 that schoolchildren should be allowed to use mobile phones in the classroom to boost education standards. The Daily Telegraph was reporting about research conducted by Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young, from Nottingham University. She led a team into mobile phone research, and said: “While the eventual aim should be to lift blanket bans on phones we do not recommend immediate, whole-school change. Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young and her colleagues reached this conclusion after studying the consequences of allowing pupils in five secondary schools to use either their own mobile phones or the new generation of ‘smartphones’ in lessons.

“We believe that teachers, students and the wider community should work together to develop policies that will enable this powerful new learning tool to be used safely.

“We hope that, in future, mobile phone use will be as natural as using any other technology in school.”

Recently Dave Rogers wrote a great blog about all the features the iPhone offers education. Dave is the Geography Curriculum Leader at the Priory School in Portsmouth who is very enthusiastic about his subject. He clearly explains each app and its merits in teaching. For those of you who are interested in what mobile phones offer a teacher I thoroughly recommend looking at his blog.

Personally, I whole heartedly agree with this argument. They have so much potential for the classroom. Mobile phones will enhance a pupils/students learning. They will give students skills that they will use in the wider world. They will bring benefits that will deve lop our own teaching.

Mobile Learning…Ringing in the Classroom

I was particularly pleased to see that Google has released it’s Google phone last week. The market needs competition. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Apple’s iPhone and find their app’s superb. But as we are all aware technology is changing and improving all the time. Apple released their iPhone in June 2007. What can mobile phones offer as tools in the classroom? Are mobile phones the future of the classroom?

Personally I think the answer is yes. They have their merits as a tool within the classroom, but used in the correct mature manner. I openly invite a mobile phone company to let my department trial a set of phones to see their potential. Any offers?

Is the Google Android the new phone of the future?

Is it better than the iPhone?

Is the Google Android suited for schools?

Are iPhones the future for the classroom?

My Top Ten Geography Films

As I have previously stated in my blog and from my article for Sec-Ed, films are a fantastic way in which to engage young learners. For interest (and a bit of fun!) I have complied together my ‘Top Ten’ Geography related films. This first appeared in my article Learning from Films in April 2009 for Sec-Ed.

  • Slumdog Millionaire – life in within the shanty towns of Mumbai
  • Brassed Off – industrial decline in the UK
  • The Day After Tomorrow – climate change has never been this traumatic!
  • City of God – the daily lives of young people in the favelas of Rio
  • Twister – the formation and impact of a twister
  • There Will Be Blood – industrial growth of a more economically developed country
  • Dante’s Peak – shows most of the features of a volcano
  • Lawrence of Arabia – illustrates desert features
  • Kes – life in 1960s Britain
  • The Full Monty – industrial decline within the UK

Q. What would be in your Top Ten Films for your subject? I look forward to hearing from you.

Learning from Films

It was not long into my education career as a teacher that I started to realise the importance and usefulness of film in my lessons. I had always been using documentaries and footage from DVDs and videos in my lessons but I had not realised what films could offer. It got my mind racing on different aspects of films that could be shown to pupils within different subject areas. I soon realised that films could enhance and develop a pupils learning and encourage them to be life long learners.

In April 2009 I wrote an article for Sec-Ed regarding the usefulness of films in education called Learning from Films. I have used films in the classroom and have found they have a lasting impression on a young students mind. Films are a successful way of engaging and stimulating young people.

Films can enhance a lesson and excite a young mind with their powerful and thought provoking subject matter. Dr. Pietari Kaapa of the University of Nottingham has stated that, “cinema as both a popular form of entertainment and a means of artistic and political expression, is a crucial area of classroom teaching. The pedagogical potential of film provides an immediate and invigorating addition to established lesson plans, while the history of the medium and its contextual socio-cultural relevance function as sources of study in their own right.”

As a Geography Teacher I have used a wide variety of different films to help show and back up key terminology or sometimes complex geographical features. The world today has created a generation of young people with very active minds. The days of a teacher in a classroom talking for 50 minutes are long gone and would not generate much enthusiasm from today’s young learners. Interaction and variety is what is needed to engage learners and film is one medium that can grip a young person’s attention. Film can enthuse and generate much debate and help a learner.

Pupils are requested to use and take part in different types of media within their learning from the National Curriculum. Films like music should be encouraged to be used within the classroom. Nick Hargreaves of Radipole Primary School in Weymouth, Dorset, believes that ‘‘films are a really valid text as much as books. With the National Curriculum we have to look at various types of media within a child’s learning and film is one way. Films are not always easy to understand and it does take time sometimes for a young learner to fully understand the complexities of a film like the music changing in relation to the mood of the film.’’ As we are aware there are three types of learners; visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. A film is one medium that incorporates all three learning styles and can hold the attention and pass on knowledge and understanding to all three main learning styles.  Nick Hargreaves says ‘film takes into account how a learner learns…it attracts the three main types of learners and engages all of them in one sitting. It reaches out to all target levels especially boys’.

It is not only watching films but using/making films within a lesson. This is sometimes difficult to do with budgets and time constraints but can be a worthwhile exercise. Young people like to be more involved in classes and using digital film recorders is one way. Pupils should be encouraged to produce news reports, presentations or stop motion modelling to help their knowledge and understanding. The technology and resources are out there and we as teachers must start to use them for the benefit of our pupils and ourselves as practitioners.

It may be uncomfortable for some of us to film ourselves in a lesson and to watch our mannerisms but would it further develop ourselves as teachers? I think the answer would be yes and should be encouraged with any teacher new or old. Filiming ourselves could be way of encourging our own development as teachers.

I remember reading Great Expectations at school and found watching the David Lean adaption a much needed guiding hand when it came to revising for the GCSE. A film may not always be true or correct, but in the right hands, us as teachers, we can filter out the bad and use the great pieces of film there is out there waiting to be used.