The Essence of Learning....Excellent Teachers

As the nation commences a second national lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Yates, Headmaster, reflects on the changing environment of teaching and what really counts when it comes to meeting the challenges of children’s emotional and educational needs.........

During my time in teaching I have seen many advances in the approach to learning in the classroom. I began my career mastering the dust of chalk on blackboards, progressing to whiteboards and marker pens. One year I came across a revelation at the Education Show, an electronic board that used pixels of ink instead of the real thing; the dawn of interactive whiteboards had emerged. Soon this technology filled every classroom. The lure of computer technology and interactive media possibilities enhanced classroom practice. We have since moved on from interactive whiteboards to video boards, iPads, virtual reality headsets and virtual classrooms. In addition, schools had been tinkering with portals and learning platforms for several years.

Then, COVID-19 lockdown thrust a crisis upon schools. Like all war efforts, problems cause opportunities and educational establishments went in search of the best way to present teaching remotely. No access to school buildings and teachers, but virtual lessons, teacher set and accessible at home. Teachers rapidly learnt new skills, turned into computer geeks, presentation gurus and video personalities, being accessible 24/7! Many schools combined this with keeping open for children of key workers regardless of their own health and welfare. Teaching technology took great leaps, as did the confidence of teachers in adapting and using new technology. However, the essence of learning became more transparent for pupils and parents.

Children need to be at school. They thrive at school and their interaction with a teacher is worth so much more than that with a computerised learning platform. Teachers are not technicians, they are professionals who get to know and understand the needs of their pupils. They see them as individuals, approach each in a unique way that will motivate and inspire them, support and enrich them and nurture their best qualities. Pupils need teachers, as well as their friends, at school in order for them to get the best learning possible. No matter how good the development of virtual learning can be, there will always be a need for excellent, caring and dedicated teachers in schools full of opportunities, experiences and friendship.