Twitter-inspired… thoughts on teaching

I joined Twitter in July 2012.  I’d been wondering for a while if it would help me to stay up to date with bands I like, football scores and other such frippery and, indeed, it did.  What I did not foresee was the power of the ‘Tweachers’ (still not sure I actually like that term) and the multiplicity of blogs, resources and educational tweeting (twittering?) that I would discover.

So, I thought I should have a go.  I’m in the fourth year of my reincarnation as a classroom teacher.  I did six years back in the ’90s before heading back to university for some further study and research, a spell as a part-time university teacher, and some short-term educational support roles.  In the last of these, a mentoring post in North Somerset, I found myself gravitating more often than I should towards the English Department…  and so here I am, back in the classroom and wondering what my next step might be.

I’m going to start with what being an English teacher means to me.  It seems a sensible and safe beginning and may actually help me to tease out why I do what I do.  It is a question I ask more often than I’d like at the moment.

English teaching means reading and writing and sharing and laughing.  It means putting myself on the line at times – as my students put themselves at risk – and exposing my likes and dislikes, my attempts at creative writing along with my students who get to give me feedback and learn what it feels like to comment on someone else’s work, someone they might not expect to be able to question or criticise.  It means sharing my belief that words are the key to a future we might choose, rather than one which is chosen for us.  It means smiling as students begin to believe in themselves as writers, witnessing them pushing against boundaries that, for one reason or another, they perceive even when I don’t want those boundaries in the classroom.

To be an English teacher, for me, is to delight especially in poetry in the classroom.  It’s my favourite part of the job.  When students start to understand the beauty of correlations between content and form, moving beyond a ‘poetry is a difficult riddle and I’ll never get it’ state of mind, I feel the buzz in the air.  It was there today, with Year 11… 

And yet, at times, to be an English teacher feels restrictive and manipulated.  The marking makes me want to cry.  I hate the Assessment Objectives and the hoop-jumping, box-ticking requirements which seem so unnatural, so in opposition to what I feel about my subject.

This has been more of a splurge than a blog.  Not quite a ‘barbaric yawp’ perhaps but not entirely what I thought it would be when I re-opened my blog and thought about using it to join the Twittersphere of teacher-bloggers.  Perhaps I’ll get better.  Perhaps this is me.  Perhaps I’ll just stop.  For now though, this is it.  

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