I hope that you enjoyed time with family and friends over the Christmas and New Year period and that you have all returned to work feeling somewhat re-energised? We too had a good break although it was tinged with the sadness of the death of my Dad on Christmas Eve. He died peacefully in his sleep in the Hospice in which he had always wanted to end his days and we drew comfort as a family that we were nearly all together with each other when we heard the news. There is never a good time to lose a family member but Christmas was a rather poignant time as I am sure some of you have also experienced.

I have been a teacher since 1991 and one thing that has happened to me as my career has progressed is that I have found myself spending less and less time in the classroom, which is a shame as that is why I went into teaching in the first place.

When I was appointed as Head here at Kingsley 2 years ago I was told, by many colleagues and experienced Heads, not to do any teaching, as the demands of being a Head make it almost impossible to do it well. I decided not to follow that advice and I do have a small amount of teaching on my timetable, with Year 8 and 9 Religious Education and a Year 9 Geography class. I think it is really important for me to teach, even to such a limited extent.

My contact with the students in the classroom environment allows me to “take the pulse” of the school in a way that is not always possible when I am sat responding to emails or interviewing prospective pupils and their parents. Teaching some lessons also allows me to look my teaching colleagues in the eye when I am extolling them to ensure that they are teaching effectively, imaginatively and creatively to enable their students to make progress, both in terms of their academic development and their personal development. I will not ask them to do something that I am not prepared to do myself.

Most importantly though, I want to teach because I absolutely love doing it! Without wanting to come across as being big-headed, I have been told on a number of occasions over my teaching career that I am a “good” teacher. I am never quite sure what this means though.
Does it mean that all of the pupils I taught always got top grades? No, although many did. Does it mean that I never set any homework and so was a “hit” with the pupils? No, I like to see pupils being stretched by homework.
Does it mean that I try to be “down with the kids” in order to be popular? No, I am far too old for any of that nonsense.

I think I am good teacher because I like and enjoy the company of young people. I love their energy, their enthusiasm, their eccentricities and their characters.
I always try to develop a good rapport with my classes. Yes, I want them to enjoy my lessons but I also make it clear to them the kind of behaviour and cooperation that I require from them to make a lesson successful.

This term I will be developing a theme in my Monday morning assemblies to the Senior School to encourage them to reflect on the responsibilities that they have for their own academic and personal development. Experts who write about education and who also inspect schools often speak about “teaching and learning” and it is very clear to me that students cannot ever learn simply by being “taught”.

I have, on some occasions, come across pupils who think that teaching is something that is done to them and their job is simply to sit passively in lessons and, as if by magic, everything that they need to know will enter their brains and stay there. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, I know more Geography than my Year 9 class do and I have a lot of “expert knowledge” that I can pass onto them, but if they refuse to engage, don’t want to listen or are unwilling to learn, then they are very unlikely to make the same amount of progress as other pupils who are focused, attentive and want to learn.

I have a real passion for learning more than I knew yesterday and it is always the pupils with the inquiring minds who ask the “off-the-wall” questions who, in my experience, make the best progress, both in terms of their academic and their personal development. This is what I will be exploring in my assemblies this term and perhaps some of them might make it to Facebook…

Here is to a happy, harmonious and successful 2019 (and Arsenal to finish in the top 4 please as well).

Pete Last