Learning from Not Doing
I met with a fellow English teacher this week and naturally we got talking about books and then reminisced about our experiences of English when we were school kids. It was an eye-opening conversation and very funny.
You’d think we had been diligent English students who loved books and writing and came top of the class. Neither of us fit that bill! We were both daydreamers, hated reading and did the bare minimum to just stay in the top group. One of us even made a deal with a parent to write an English assignment whilst the other did the dishes and cleaned the bathroom (Okay, it was me and yes, I really did that – I couldn’t write poetry then and still can’t!)
At school, the assignments were given back and mine was unmarked. Huh?
‘Miss, you haven’t graded my assignment.’
‘Nicola, you didn’t write it.’
Glossy blue eyes and a look of indignation. ‘I did, Miss!’
Later that day… ‘Mom, you got an ‘A’ for your Whale poem.’
What a horrible child I was. But my mom was chuffed to bits.
The point is, neither my friend nor I had a good experience in English lessons during our teens and quite frankly our teachers did not inspire us. We were forced to read certain texts, forced to show appreciation of the text, forced to analyse these texts and forced to sit exams relating to these texts. As we all know, it’s not recommended to force rebellious teenagers into anything. That’s a disaster waiting to happen!
Luckily, we both learned ‘how not to inspire kids’ and now, as teachers and parents, we are both apt in recognising reluctant readers and writers in our own classes – especially the ones that sit at the back of the classroom with a mischievous look on their faces (that used to be us). The key is to relate to each student, see the world from their viewpoint and teach them what needs to be taught in a way that they can ‘see the point’. Luckily, schools in the UK do set more interesting texts than when my friend and I were at school and even the classics can be taught in a more up-to-date, relatable context nowadays.
Happily, we are now avid readers and love to teach and talk ‘books’!
Did your secondary/high-school English teachers inspire you? Were you forced to read certain texts? Do share any childhood memories that stand out for you.
Have a lovely week!