Chalk Talk: The brilliant teachers who bring a tear to an old hack's eye
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Thursday 03 November 2011
The pupils were nervously crouching under their desks, hoping all the noise would go away. Meanwhile, their teacher was banging as hard as he could on his desk to create a climate of fear.
No, it was not some awful return to the world of Dickens' infamous Wackford Squeers, but one of this year's Teaching Awards winners trying to simulate a Second World War air raid in his classroom. In a separate lesson, he had his pupils all lined up like actors from the TV series Crime Scene Investigation to inspect a body that turned out to be Thomas Becket's.
The children loved it – which was one reason why Richard Rodd, a history teacher from Tendring Technology College in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, won the award for history teacher of the year. Given the chance to thank all those who had helped him achieve the award, he included Hitler and Stalin on the list for good measure.
Then there was Simon Roberts, a special-needs teacher who dressed in a tutu as he sought to convey a love of ballet to his pupils at Selworthy School, Taunton.
Quite what Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, would have made of it had they dropped in unannounced on one of the lessons is open to conjecture. In their old tick-box mentality days, some of what was going on might well have breached health and safety standards. Quite what would happen to any of these teachers if they transferred to a school with a rigid insistence on teaching to the test, I don't know.
The point is, though, these schools have established good standards by allowing the modern-day equivalents of Miss Jean Brodie to flourish in their classrooms.
Thank goodness we are allowed to see that not all that goes on in state schools is as dull as ditchwater, through the medium of the Teaching Awards – now rescued through its sponsorship by Pearson's and still screened on BBC 2. The last time I remember being on the verge of breaking into tears in a cinema or theatre was when I went to see Cry Freedom. This grizzled old hack felt a similar emotion welling up inside as we saw just what these teachers had achieved for their pupils.
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