26 November 2018
“The alchemy that is education happens in schools when individual human teachers engage and connect with young people, when heart speaks to heart, in an environment of trust and candour. These teachers live and breathe their subject: they are “inside” them, as someone wrote of JRR Tolkien being “inside” language. They think about aspects of their subject more or less all the time – walking the dog, on the bus, in the bath, eating lunch – and are constantly renewed by the excitement of learning, discovery and pure thought.
As well as this, able teachers, through experience and no little skill, continually and imperceptibly modify how they teach the subject matter they know so intimately. Some students – often the more naturally academic ones – appreciate and even thrive on irony or an arch delivery, although many don’t. Some – many – need constant yet meaningful praise and approbation, rooted in recent specific examples of their personal achievement. Some – many – need to be told when their work falls short of the standards they should set themselves: no pupil respects a teacher who sets the bar low then rejoices when their inwardly derisive students clear it with ease. The classroom should be a place of purposeful joy, of passion (“I love this stuff and I want you to as well!”), of energy and of a sense of a shared mission: “how can we work together to bring you success?”
There are few things of greater value than a great teacher.”
Joe Smith – Head Master