by Jean Ramsey
An Apology to Mrs Stephens from Tales from the Chalkface
In January of this year I came across this article and it really resonated with me. In fact all of my posts, I now envisage writing them to Mrs Stephens because I feel she (and the Mr Stephenses) do have a lot to offer and are far too often dismissed.
If you have not read the article the gist of it is an mature teacher looking back on how dismissive he was of an older, less flamboyant member of staff. He judged that her lessons were ‘boring’, ‘ irrelevant’ and could teach him nothing. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, he realised that Mrs Stephens had her eye on what really mattered; that the students had a supportive, well organised and focussed learning environment. With her at the front delivering the message.
His final instruction is to direct new teachers to deliberately seek out the older members of staff and to listen to them; ask them about their ideas on education. They have a lot to offer.
Way back when I did my PGCE year I was encouraged to do a week’s observation in a local primary school. I did this in Harwich County Primary School in July 1975. I was seduced by the bright young man whose class I was assigned to. I was impressed with the fact that he had such a connection with his top junior class (Year 6 in new money). It was report writing time and what really stuck in my mind, was that whilst he was writing the end of year reports for his students, he got them to write an end of year report for him using all the same criteria.
How interesting that was. The students were open and honest and were obviously used to this kind of two way respectful communication. They raised valid points which he promised to take onboard...I don’t remember what the issues were after all these years!
There was a Mrs Stephens equivalent on the staff. She taught the infants class. Her advice to me was to beware of the boys with blond hair and blue eyes because their mums and dads had let them get away with everything and I would have an uphill battle with them….and so it has proved over my 35 year career.
When I was doing my Postgraduate Diploma in Educational Studies in 2000, I had to find a means of evaluating the impact of the new ideas I was trialling in my English classes. My supervisor suggested a questionnaire that I should ask my students to complete. I was rather hesitant at first but there was no need to be.My students were just as respectful and generous as those top juniors were all those years previously.
So let us be respectful of older colleagues who have survived all those years and seen all the innovations come and go. Mrs Stephens’ style is now being hailed as the lastest ‘new’ thing: Directive Teaching.