The Passionate Teacher

“Of some of our teachers, we remember the foibles and mannerisms, of others, their kindness and encouragement, or their fierce devotion to standards of work that we probably didn’t share at the time. And of those we remember most, we remember what they cared about and that they cared about us and the person we might become. It is this quality of caring about ideas and values, this fascination with the potential for growth within people, this depth and fervour about doing things well and striving for excellence, that comes closest to what I mean in describing ‘passionate teaching’”. (Robert Fried, from ‘The Passionate Teacher’)

I found this quote in the London Challenge programme that used the Butterflies approach to school development. Seeking, as the authors write, ‘high leverage both in the important things in school life and in reinforcing how the important things are done, we believe that small interventions can have a disproportionate effect.’

The programme has loads of suggestions for school improvement, lots of the 1% marginal gains, but the above quote about passionate teaching and teachers seems the key to me. From this can come so much.

Marginal gains in the classroom: small changes, big effect!

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Holidays over, results published and students said goodbye to, we are back in to start 2014-15.
Teaching and Learning standards in the classroom as a priority for this year is a no-brainer really, but it really is vital, and refreshing that this will be such a focus. With this in mind we wanted to highlight this, as well as get all colleagues thinking about areas that they might target as a marginal gain, and also what they already do fantastically well.
Marginal gains, the 1%, are key this year. We are a good teaching school – to raise classroom standards even more, we can look at the small changes that can have a large effect. This is the Butterfly effect – a mind-bender of an idea that:
‘If sufficient butterflies were to beat their wings in the Amazonian forest they could trigger a hurricane thousands of miles away…’

There’s a brilliant Sci-Fi story about this that we used to read in English. The Butterfly idea is great – everything we do matters – we flap our small, individual wings through planning, innovation, tweaking and supporting in the classroom, and the combined effect in Westfield can be HUGE!

We started looking at our values as teachers, and how these were shaped to a certain extent by our own inspirational teachers:

Mrs Townsend was tough with high expectations. Consistently marking my work in incredible depth and explaining content in a way that made it really easy to understand gave me confidence in my ability to do well. Despite her hard exterior, she was incredibly caring and approachable; giving me personalised steps in order to achieve the A grade. ‘

‘Dr Bell, my Latin teacher, inspired me to love and excel in Latin. If it hadn’t been for him I wouldn’t be teaching it now! He was the most learned teacher in the school and always made me feel confident in my own abilities. I loved visiting his house, filled with lovely Classics books, to revise and chat about life with him and my classmates. We are still in touch now and I hope will be for many years to come.’

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The common denominator was always the belief that teachers gave us, and the extra mile they put in, and encouraged us to put in as well. This has indeed shaped us as the teachers that we are. Sometimes we need to re-connect with our values just to remind us of the importance of our job. Today, with all the students in, looking smart and sharp in their ties, it feels like it’s going to be a brilliant year!