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Don’t Change Your Teaching Practice for the Sake of it – But do Check to See if it’s as Good as it Can Be

There's no sense in leaving your teaching comfort zone for the fun of it, says Tom Starkey – but do take a moment to check it’s really as secure as it could be...

  • Don’t Change Your Teaching Practice for the Sake of it – But do Check to See if it’s as Good as it Can Be

You spend so much time flapping about like a pigeon stuck down a chimney in the early part of your teaching career, that when you do finally find your feet there’s a quite natural desire to plant them firmly in the ground, pour concrete over them and stay there forever more.

It’s a completely understandable state of affairs to want to stand up tall after you’ve been flailing around for what feels like forever.

A bit of stability is no bad thing. You’ve got your moves down pat, the class doesn’t always feel like a war zone and progress is being made. Man, you’re starting to get a handle on this sucker. Get in there.

In teaching, having an anchor is important; the job is difficult enough without constantly feeling that you’re playing catch-up, and when you gain a little confidence in your practice it lightens some of the weight of the role, allowing you space to think and breathe.

A modicum of comfort where previously there was once nothing but fire and noise is only ever going to be a positive in my eyes. It’s a well-deserved, often hard-fought for prize.

And me, I like being comfortable.

At the start of my less than illustrious career, as soon as I felt like I might have a chance at not destroying the educational future of every kid with whom I came into contact, I got hold of that quick-dry mix, filled my size 11s to the brim and was pretty much determined not to budge a bloody inch for what I envisaged to be the longest time possible.

For me, my first couple of years (yeah, to any new starters out there, I’m sorry but I reckon this is the kind of timescale it takes to plant yourself – it’s a bugger, I know) were pretty much like being on an ice ring deemed too stable by the powers-that-be; so oil was poured on top and then your boots were greased up just for good measure.

So when the first signs appeared that I might have actually have stopped sliding, the relief was huge. This was it. My moves were dope. I was never changing the routine because my moves were the absolute dopeness. Pass me that skimming trowel, I’m neatening up these cement shoes, gonna make them nice and pretty.

Now I bet you think I’m going to say something like ‘you need to break out of those cement shoes so you can run free in your teaching!’ or some such shtick like that, don’t you?

Nah. I’m not about to go and say that you should throw all caution to the wind and change things that work up for the sheer hell of it. I mean, that’s ridiculous. What is this? A bought-in CPD session? An inspirational talk on the YouTube?

Nope. Sticking with something that works is pretty much a solid idea in any situation. Teaching included.

Buuuuuuuut…

it might be the case that there are other things that work too.

It might be the case that these are things that you may not have even considered and, when added to mixer, make an even more solid cement that’s completely weather resistant and dries so quickly that Nick Hegarty from Year 10 won’t even get the chance to scrawl his name in it.

I’m not talking about breaking free, I’m talking about reinforcing. Slapping a few more layers onto what’s already there.

Getting that first taste of confidence in teaching is such a good feeling. I don’t begrudge anyone sticking to the formula that got them there in the first place. But that doesn’t mean the formula can’t be improved.

What I suggest is that you get yourself uprooted (at least just for a little while) and hire a forklift to take you and your breeze-block Nikes around a couple of your colleagues’ classes to see if you can’t make your strong stuff even stronger by adding theirs to your own.

In doing so, you may even increase your levels of comfort in the classroom. Small additions to what you’ve already worked so hard to build up, mean that once you’ve got yourself all dug in again, it’d take some sort of hurricane to get you out of there. Solid as a rock.

There’s nothing wrong with planting yourself and having a breather after turbulent times. Anyone who says any different has either forgotten what it’s like starting out, or was lucky enough not to have experienced what the rest of us do. But before you go cementing your position, make sure you’ve got the strongest mix possible.

Thanks for reading.

Tom Starkey is a teacher and writer who blogs at stackofmarking.wordpress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tstarkey1212.

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