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What makes a good teacher?

02/10/17

This is an amazing blog from Emma, who decided to share her teaching story prior to the World Teachers' Day.

As a young NQT, I came home from a busy, noisy day at school, tired and with a brain buzzing with thoughts about the children and their parents, the demands of the senior management team, and exactly what my parallel teacher was doing that was so different from what I was doing. On the other side of the country from my family and a world away from the countryside I loved, I felt out of my depth in almost every way. So, I did what almost every girl does when she needs him, I phoned my dad for advice. I asked him, ‘will I ever get it, Dad?’

‘Get what exactly?’

‘You know, ‘it’. The thing that makes you a good teacher? When will I know everything?’

We had talked about teaching in our family for as long as I could remember. We talked about it a lot. My dad was a lecturer for thirty years. When I was four we’d taken my eldest brother to teacher training college, where he met the girl he’d later marry, who was also training to be a teacher. My sister qualified as a teacher when I was fourteen and married a teacher a year later. Today, there are three generations of teachers and teaching assistants in the family, nine of us altogether. The one brother that escaped into architecture designed schools at one point. Education is our family firm.

When we get together, we talk about our jobs. We share our joys and hopes and, sometimes, the bad times we all go through. We turn to each other for advice, passing on news or recommendations for resources. Talking to my niece recently, who is relatively new to the profession, we shared the best books we’d read to very young children, including her own.

My sister and sister-in-law both teach in Special Education in different parts of Britain, and I have learnt a great deal from them about how to support children and their families, in school and at home. As part of building international relationships between headteachers, both my brother and sister have visited schools abroad, and found out about their education system and culture. When they came back, they showed us photographs and told us the tales of what they saw and learnt.

For over twenty years I had my own adventures in independent education. As a supply teacher now, I’m seeing a different world. I go into a rich variety of schools, some urban, some very rural, some English, some Welsh, some business like and formal, some very friendly and welcoming, all focussed on education. It is a wonderful world and I wouldn’t change my life as it is for anything. My friends are teachers. Every day or so, we talk about our day and how lessons went, constantly evaluating ourselves as well as the pupils. The children are always brilliant, even on those challenging, tiring days. Occasionally, I think again of that conversation with Dad back in the 90s, when I asked him about having what it takes to be a good teacher.

‘Darling’, Dad said, ‘if you ever think you know everything about teaching you should stop. I taught for all those years and I still didn’t know everything. Keep learning and trying your best, developing and growing, that’s what good teachers do. We never stop. We never give in or give up, we’re all thinking and challenging ourselves. If you’re asking if you have ‘it’, you’ve got it already.’

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