Unlike last night’s post, I know this is a little controversial with some. But it shouldn’t be.
The more I read about my own subject the fewer activities I prepare. I don’t mean to say that I never let children do something without my total control, but that this is incredibly infrequent. I talk a lot; all the time, in fact. Unless children are writing or reading alone – and, actually, I’m generally reading with them – I’m talking. And I’m doing so because, eight years in, I feel like I know my subject pretty well. I don’t know everything, but there are fewer and fewer questions which stump me.
I talk because I’m the expert and they’re the novices. I talk because I need to show them how to speak, in general and specific terms. I talk to “bring it to life“, whatever that means. I talk to build the basics and describe and explain and make links and keep attention focused and add colour.
If staff come in to my room and say, “Excuse me, Sir – do you have a minute?” my answer is that I don’t. “Shall I come back when they’re getting on with something?” Well, you can try. I’d have liked to write today but we need to re-explain a couple of things so no, no you can’t. I’m not dogmatic, but I don’t like dead time. Couldn’t they just get on with something else? Maybe if it’s Y13, but I need to be in control, not freakishly but overseeing and nudging and pausing and probing by feigning ignorance, or acting surprised or getting really bloody excited about the Weimar constitution.
I don’t like dead time, and I don’t like wasted time. If children are performing an activity – and I choose my words carefully – then they’re doing exactly that. Busy hands make for tick tick tick: One One One! But learning is a process, and a difficult one at that. If an activity is designed to gather information then I’d rather tell them and not waste the time. And by telling them I can point out all the nuances, and bring them along with me at the appropriate pace, all together and together as one. We can colour as we go.
I don’t want to see a charade which hollers to the rooftops its inability to tell me what’s really going on. An activity to complete is often an end-of-act curtain hiding the stage hands struggling with the props, and Lord knows there are enough dusty curtains getting in the way of our ability to witness learning anyway. Learning is not a series of immediately snapshottable end-points, so let’s not fall for Polaroid-planning, Instagramming our way through lessons.
Focus on the subject itself.