As another year ends…
(What’s he talking about? it is July!)
Sorry, force of habit. In teaching you get used to an eleven month, year, September to July, with August acting as a weird buffer zone, where the past and future mingle.

My eye was caught by a letter in the Guardian. Responding to an article about “unqualified teachers”, the author of the letter lists her wide-ranging experience in independent schools, her Oxbridge degree, her MA and her PhD and the fact that she is also a published author.
However, lacking a teaching qualification, she would be described as an unqualified teacher. Now I am the last person to stick up for Ofsted and I have a rant about their box ticking, approach to lessons forming. My sympathies lie with the author of the letter. What nonsense that all her experience should go to waste.
Then she writes this.
… we learn that about “6,000 trainee teachers began courses after achieving a 2:2 or lower in their degree subject”. Just who do we want to teach our children?

My sympathy has just evaporated.
Just who do we want teaching our children?
Well certainly not her, that’s for sure.
I would have been one of the 6,000 when I trained.
Were my pupils disadvantaged by my “2:2 or lower” in my degree. As roughly 0.01% of the maths I had to teach at secondary school was from my degree, I would be confident in saying they were not. Instead they were , I hope, enthused by my love of the subject and my willingness to explain and be positive about my subject and their abilities.

For my music O-level our teacher found the aural paper, involving for example the transcription of a piece of 4-part harmony, very difficult to teach. He was gifted with perfect pitch and could just hear it and couldn’t explain it at all. Perhaps a teacher with a “2:2 or lower” could have helped us, understanding our difficulty.

I have observed lessons where very bright teachers gave their pupils a dull and uninspiring experience, where questions were discouraged and the method had to be followed, as if it were engraved on tablets of stone. This way, once The Method had been given, the class could tackle the exercise is silence: questions or observations were discouraged. This allowed the teacher to do her marking.
The question said ‘a car travels 15 miles in 20 minutes, what is the speed in mph?’
“So ,” I said, “20 minutes is one third of an hour so multiply 15 by 3 and we get 45 mph.”
There were a couple of blank faces. They were horrified. I wasn’t using The Method. You HAD to divide by 20 and then multiply by 60. No common sense, no feel for the context, but at least that teacher didn’t have a “2:2 or lower”.

I was constantly marking and preparing and I would love to hear how the author of the letter found time to write and become a published author, while teaching. I’m sure not one of her pupils was ever subjected to a less than perfect lesson, with a plethora of stimulating activities, because her mind was on her book.

From a different field, perhaps the letter-writer has heard of Arsene Wenger, who, as a professional footballer, had a less than stellar career. The Frenchman only made 64 appearances scoring 4 goals in the process.
Just who do we want managing our club?’
However he could read the game and now the Frenchman is the most successful manager in Arsenal history with 19 honours to his name.
Perhaps the name Jose Mourinho rings a bell. A playing career of about 100 games for four distinctly average Portuguese clubs.
‘Just who do we want managing our club?
As a manager in over 650 matches he has won 20 trophies.
One final football example: Sir Alex Ferguson. His playing career of 317 games and 171 goals sounds more impressive, but as he was playing for such giants of the game as Ayr United, Falkirk and Dunfermline for most of them, it isn’t a glittering CV.
‘Just who do we want managing our club?
With Aberdeen he broke the Celtic/Rangers duopoly with 3 Scottish Premier Division titles, 4 league cups and a UEFA Cup-Winners Cup
At Manchester United he notched 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA cups, 4 League cups and 2 UEFA Champions League titles.
Great players who made poor managers include Sir Bobby Charlton, Diego Maradona and Graeme Souness, who once as manager of Southampton, signed a player he’d never seen play, brought him on as a substitute but he was so poor he had to substitute the sub.
My point? Being gifted as a performer is no guarantee of being gifted as a teacher/manager. Equally, I suggest that having a “2:2 or lower” does not automatically mean you will be a great or a poor teacher.

Certainly one young lady who I first taught in year 9, wasn’t disadvantaged by our paths crossing. She had the reputation of being an able but unfocused student. She was doing enough work, but there was something missing.
I began to notice that once she felt confident that I would listen to her, she had a talent for asking very intelligent questions, often tangential to the lesson objective. “Up yours, Ofsted!” Her interest was rekindled. Having lit the fire, I watched it burn through the years, Oxbridge, a First, a distinction in her Masters, and currently a PhD. The young lady and her parents are convinced I made a difference.


2 thoughts on “Those who can…

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