Tuesday, 15 April 2014

My Biggest Teaching Accomplishment

Today's post on the @TeachThought 30-day blogging challenge is about my biggest teaching accomplishment. This is hard. Much of what goes on in the classroom is about small, incremental improvements that build up over time. Attributing any particular pupil's progress purely to oneself is a dangerous game. @echeadmaster made this point powerfully the other day:

The implication is clear: there is a certain narcissistic immodesty in attributing all success in pupils you teach to your own efforts. The learning game is more messy and complicated than that.

But this is not to say there haven't been moments of pride along the way. These happened most frequently, I think, as a Housemaster, where I was cheek-by-jowl with pupils for the long haul. There were several happy occasions where a difficult, disorganized, moody individual metamorphosed during their time in my house into someone quite different, utterly charming and clearly destined for success. I remember one individual in particular: shambolic, late for everything, forgetful, messy and preternaturally lazy. In a hot and angry moment of despair late one evening I told him that he was throwing his A-levels down the toilet and deserved whatever he got. He e-mailed me in the summer holidays after he'd left, having got straight As, with a simple: 'See, Sir?" I could have strangled him. 

But a large crate of wine and a lovely letter arrived in the post a few days later - all was forgiven! When I met him a few years later he was the very image of charm and sophistication - I consoled myself with the thought that I'd done my bit to nudge him in the right direction.

Beyond the classroom and face-to-face contact with pupils, I am most proud of some of the systems I've put in place in the places where I've worked. At Uppingham, my big labour of love was cataloguing every single department resource right down to the last infiltrometer in the fieldwork cupboard. Everything was labelled and inputted into an Access database searchable by all. I like to think that, for a while at least, we were the most organised department in the school. More recently at Oswestry, the development of an Intranet - OsNet - from which almost all of the day-to-day administration of the school is run has been my proudest achievement. 

There it is.