Are we in danger of making clowns of our teachers?


When is a teacher not a teacher? When they’re a teeny tiny molecule? When they’re a flower? When they’re a clown?

Pressure from Ofsted (and others) to make lessons more interactive and accessible to all students may put a teacher’s imagination to the test.  But more importantly, may risk losing credibility that really will engage pupils.

New research suggests that students who are in a good mood are more receptive to creative learning.  Clearly pupils who are engaged by their teacher are more likely to contribute positively and get more out of the experience, but is there a line that separates excellent teaching from pure entertainment?Wonderfully interactive lesson plans, devised by highly-motivated teachers, may successfully involve the whole class and hold the attention of all; even those who normally have difficulty remembering why they opened their pencil case, but what will it take to make them concentrate for the next lesson?
Clearly the suggestion is not to prevent interesting lesson plans or imaginative ways of teaching.  Perhaps there is a more fundamental key to engaging students though, which has more longevity.  Research shows that pupils, who believe in their teacher and find them to be credible, will be more receptive to what that teacher is saying.  
 If students trust their teacher, believe them to be competent and that it’s worth their while to listen; they will.  There may be a danger, however, of attempting to fabricate the effects of credibility with gimmicks that pander to children for whom opening their schoolbag is a challenge, whilst patronising the rest of the class.  Apparently it’s not just bad party magicians that children can see through at forty paces.
We have an ethos of learning through fun.  All of our young visitors will take something away with them: a greater understanding of what it was like to be a soldier stationed on Hadrian’s Wall; an idea of what Victorian entrepreneurship achieved; or a new-found interest in Fencing or Archery.  We take the business of fun very seriously though.  The same Group Leader who takes their group through a course in local history or on a fieldwork trip may be performing at Evening Ents.  So once again, the teacher becomes the jester?  
Context is all important of course.  If the Group Leader has no credibility, they will remain a joke in everything.  Aside from not being able to engage the group on excursions or fieldwork trips, perhaps more importantly, as an instructor it’s imperative that everyone pays attention to the safety talk before the more adventurous activities.   Our Group Leaders and instructors aren’t often qualified teachers, but we do spend a lot of time and effort finding, training and then monitoring the right people.
So whichever hat our Group Leaders are wearing, we’d expect it to fit perfectly and for them to carry the group with them whether they’re in mid-flow about rivers or just jesting.


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