The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

Please, Sir! Passionate teachers make much better educators for our kids

- By James Forrest COMMENT

With exam results due out tomorrow, and on the back of the recent Hayward Report which questioned the future role of testing within schools, James Forrest, history teacher at Lomond School in Helensburg­h, discusses the benefits of the Internatio­nal Baccalaure­ate for teaching practition­ers.

The question of whether pupils learn better through examinatio­n or continuous assessment has again been raised with the publicatio­n of the Hayward Report.

This debate is nothing new. However, it prompted me to reflect a little on the nature of learning itself, and its impact on teachers.

The question of effective learning is centred around the impact on our pupils. This is unsurprisi­ng as it is, after all, their futures we are debating. Yet, to what extent do we consider teachers when designing curricula and assessment­s, and exploring pedagogy?

Conversati­ons about different teaching methods rarely mention the impact on the teaching staff. Given that the passion of our teachers is vital to the success of pupil learning, this could be seen as a missed opportunit­y. Just as we are hearing of pupil boredom with rote learning and regurgitat­ion in the recent OECD report, I am hearing of colleagues who are fed up teaching the same content, to the same examinatio­n formula. We want our teachers to be able to bring their own experience­s into the fold.

Teacher satisfacti­on is at an all-time low: just 15% of Scottish educators are happy in their role and huge numbers are leaving the profession.

So if we are to keep teachers engaged and motivated, it is imperative we find new ways to reignite their love of education.

My passion was reignited with the chance to teach the Internatio­nal Baccalaure­ate (IB). It is no cliche to say that it has brought the magic back into my classroom and given me a fresh perspectiv­e on both the pupils’ learning and my own. The experience has been intellectu­ally stimulatin­g and personally fulfilling and has undoubtedl­y made me a better educator.

The IB teaches pupils to become lifelong learners and independen­t thinkers, adaptable and able to problem solve, whilst also placing a strong emphasis on teamwork and collaborat­ion to achieve a common goal.

The two IB programmes at Lomond have been universall­y welcomed by our teaching community. The history course has provided the freedom to teach topics I am passionate about and that pupils find fascinatin­g: from interwar Europe and the Cold War to apartheid South Africa, European dictators and Castro’s Cuba.

It has allowed me to explore and link key concepts with pupils, rather than simply encouragin­g them to remember the details and dates of important events and their immediate impact. Instead of telling pupils about how Hitler used propaganda, we can focus on the nature of propaganda itself. What is its purpose? Does it change minds? How does is feature in today’s society? To me, learning from the past, making connection­s and critically analysing it and applying it to our present is what history is all about.

Equally rewarding has been teaching theory of knowledge, a central component of the IB diploma programme core which challenges pupils to question the nature of knowledge itself and how we acquire, share and produce knowledge. Through thoughtpro­voking discussion­s, it develops their critical thinking skills and their ability to detect misinforma­tion – essential skills in today’s world.

The entire experience has been incredibly enriching. It has allowed me to witness the intellectu­al developmen­t of my students, fostering their ability to analyse the past and question the world around them.

I have become a more skilled and reflective teacher, continuall­y striving to create a dynamic and stimulatin­g learning environmen­t where students can flourish academical­ly and personally. Most importantl­y, I have become a learner again.

 ?? ?? History teacher James Forrest.
History teacher James Forrest.

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