Writing, whether for this blog, a magazine article, a book or just for fun, helps me to be a better English teacher. Researching, planning, structuring and redrafting are elements of what I preach. Nothing I write is perfect first time; I often find mistakes even after publishing but I aim for perfection. Other elements of my preaching include: using correct punctuation, using a range of vocabulary to suit my purpose, using a range of sentence structures for effect and paragraphing correctly. Writing for real purposes helps me to be fully involved with my subject and helps me to recognise the processes I need to teach pupils to help them strive for perfection too.
The decision to take English at university was not made with teaching in mind as my end game; I hated school! At age eighteen, teaching had not even entered my mind. What I really wanted to do was write. The English Degree meant immersing myself in the works of great writers and learning from their genius. My passion for literature and creativity has never died and I consider myself very lucky to be able to practise what I preach.
Reflecting on my luck got me thinking about other subjects and wondering how this would work for them. Do teachers of Science experiment and investigate, making new discoveries? Do Geography teachers get out there and study our natural world? What about Maths teachers, Art teachers or teachers of Business Studies? Are they able to practise what they preach?
Have you ever sat through a presentation by an inspirational ex teacher and thought: “It’s all very well saying that, you don’t have to teach anymore.” I wonder how many of our pupils have had similar thoughts about us. “It’s all very well him telling me about quadratic equations but when will I ever use them? He only uses them because he has to teach them to me.” How uninspiring!
How much more inspiring would it be to have details of your latest, ground breaking investigation on display? Practising your subject and showing pupils your learning journey would be a great way to demonstrate the application of your subject to real life. Not only could you share with them a culture of lifelong learning but you can also avoid the “When would you ever use this?” question.
Imagine being taught English by Edgar Allen Poe, Science by Nikola Tessler, Geography by Alfred Russell Wallace or Art by Salvador Dali. All human beings just like us but human beings that took action. Time to play is not something teachers have in abundance but imagine if we could all practise what we preach. Imagine a world of teachers who do, who really do. Teachers who are not only passionate about their subjects but also make exciting advancements in their specialist field.
Writing will continue to be my passion, I may not be the next Poe but neither will I find myself regurgitating the same formula for analysing Shakespeare in my fiftieth year of teaching. I want to explore, create, develop and do and, hopefully, by taking action, I will encourage my pupils to want to do too.