Thursday, 19 January 2012

A reflection on Tony Ghaye

Over the last few weeks when I've spent winter ensconced in a B&B I've been reading Tony Ghaye's book "Teaching and Learning through Reflective practice." It's very much a book aimed at NQTS and I don't intend to give a book review. However, I did extract a few useful snippets. The interesting thing is that it reminded me of a comment made by PGCE tutors in the dim and distant.

"A good teacher is a reflective teacher.

The minute you stop reflecting

your teaching begins to die."

I can't say I've stopped reflecting over the years but maybe the focus of the reflection has been more geared towards crisis management or box-ticking. Maybe, just maybe, I need to return to basics and consider some of the fundamentals surrounding my teaching.

Some of the questions posited, and addressed, by Ghaye surround the value-laden nature of teaching. I'm not sure if teaching was ever non-value-laden. Until the age of 18 my education was spent in Catholic schools which were, inevitably, focused through the Catholic ethos. However, it seems to me that there is an increasing emphasis on values even to the extent of this pervading the latest list of teacher standard.

So what are my values as a teacher? I could go all trite and cliched and talk about achieving the best, setting a role-model, etc. but what does that mean? Focusing on one aspect of teaching - classroom practice - here are my thoughts.

Of course one wants success for one's students. One want's them to achieve to their highest level. However, for me as an RE teacher achievement essentially transcends mere academic grade-grabbing. RE is, essentially, a subject concerned with the holistic development of the child - perhaps in ways that other subjects cannot achieve. For example, we address:

  • Spiritual development

  • Moral development

  • Cultural development

  • Social development

We are not purely there to teach students what different religions think or believe. We are there, as a consideration of the assessment criteria for RE show, to challenge students in their personal responses to the ideas under consideration. We are there to enable them to make sense of a very complicated multicultural milieu at a time of their life when they are exploring what it means to be human.

For me this is the most fundamental value in teaching RE. I must provide a role-model for how students can address these questions without patronising, condemning or coercing.

Am I successful? The answer has to be yes and no. I could only be 100% successful if 100% of students enjoyed, engaged with and succeeded in the subject. However, there are success indicators that suggest partial success.

  • Former students come up to me in the street and greet me with joy and gratitude. (Some surprising me in the process.

  • Lesson observations continually comment on the engagement and atmosphere from the majority of students.

  • I am usually satisfied with how classroom discussions and debates go on.

Unfortunately, that is not the end. I want to move the teaching on and so need to consider different ways of developing. I am limited, somewhat, by the constraints of various curricula. However, I would like to:

  • DEvelop opportunities for learning outside the classroom.

  • I want to push the development of SMSC development in the academy - a major strand in the latest OFSTED framework.

  • The resources in RE need moving beyond the textual without reducing RE to the study of modern culture.

All material for future blog posts.