in Education

My way or the highway.

As I posted recently, although I’ve just begun my fifth year of teaching, last year’s GCSE results were my first set. They were rather disappointing and it made me question my methods somewhat. Back in the classroom with pupils today for the first time this academic year, however, has made me stick to my guns.

As Limp Bizkit famously sang (rapped/said/roared?):

I’m ‘a do things my way
It’s my way
My way, or the highway

That is to say that whilst I’m obviously going to try some of the modifications detailed in the aforementioned blog post, my fundamental teaching style and blended learning approach isn’t going to change; I’m still going to be introducing my students to educational technology new and old that I think will aid their learning. Thankfully, although there’s obviously analysis to do of my results and those of the department, my teaching methods haven’t been questioned at all.

It’s difficult. As the main earner for my family I have a responsibilty to my wife and son to make sure they can live in the manner to which they are accustomed. But I also have guiding principles. It’s easy to let the latter fall by the wayside in the face of adversity or pressure. Thankfully, the only pressure I’ve felt has been self-exerted. Reading the following passage from Ralph Waldo Emerson‘s essay Self-Reliance helped greatly:

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is a unique. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he could not borrow. Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.

I’m not, of course, comparing myself to these luminaries, but I found this particular passage very inspiring in the last few days. It’s eased some of the self-imposed pressure to focus narrowly and exclusively on results. :-)

(Image credit: Ruta 12 by *L*u*z*a* @ Flickr)

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  • http://www.nstoneit.com Daniel

    Great to hear – I missed your earlier post when I was on holiday but I’m really happy to read this one!
    You have to do things your way and not let one set of results get you down.

  • http://www.teachersatrisk.com Elona Hartjes

    Doug,
    To thine own self be true! :)

  • http://www.nstoneit.com Daniel

    Great to hear – I missed your earlier post when I was on holiday but I'm really happy to read this one!You have to do things your way and not let one set of results get you down.

  • Jonathan Gower

    I think you're right. I teach KS2 and have had some disappointing SATs results. And I was upset. But I know that I don't 'believe' in SATs. In fact they're silly. But the power of public judgment is quite a force.

  • http://www.onsimplicity.net Sara at On Simplicity

    Emerson is always inspiring. :) I have to say, I never imagined I’d hear him quoted alongside Fred “Hot Dog Flavored Water” Durst, but it just proves Emerson’s point about the value of individuality.

  • http://www.teachersatrisk.com Elona Hartjes

    Doug,To thine own self be true! :)

  • Jonathan Gower

    I think you’re right. I teach KS2 and have had some disappointing SATs results. And I was upset. But I know that I don’t ‘believe’ in SATs. In fact they’re silly. But the power of public judgment is quite a force.

  • http://www.onsimplicity.net Sara at On Simplicity

    Emerson is always inspiring. :) I have to say, I never imagined I'd hear him quoted alongside Fred “Hot Dog Flavored Water” Durst, but it just proves Emerson's point about the value of individuality.

  • Adam

    Just remember whatever the results you are dealing with human beings (well kids at any rate) not automatons who can be programmed. If you feel you have done your best by them, and more crucially thay feel they did their best no one can (should) ask for more.

  • Adam

    Just remember whatever the results you are dealing with human beings (well kids at any rate) not automatons who can be programmed. If you feel you have done your best by them, and more crucially thay feel they did their best no one can (should) ask for more.

  • http://www.sheffnersweb.net/wordpress/ shefi

    I recommend “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand. A highly controversial blockbuster.

  • http://www.sheffnersweb.net/wordpress/ shefi

    I recommend “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand. A highly controversial blockbuster.

  • http://kellimcgraw.wordpress.com/ Kelli

    This is just my second year of full time teaching (English), and my year 12 students are about to sit their Higher School Certificate (HSC is the last year of high school in NSW, Australia).

    I have tried over the past year with them to blend traditional learning with a class blog. Recently I also introduced them to Voicethread for a creative writing workshop. I email a lot of work, and connect the to a range of online sources, youtube videos etc.

    It sure is difficult, when you spend most of the year up your high horse, complaining about how exams are narrowing the curriculum, when at the end of the day the students are the ones who are most effected by a bad result. But at the end of the day I really DO believe that I am teaching them ’21st century’ skills and knowledge that are going to pay dividends in the future once their results are long forgotten. I also believe that what I am doing is pedagogically sound – although like yourself I have seen areas where I am slack that need tweaking in future, and like you, mine are discipline and homework!

    We won’t see our results until after Christmas. I’m hoping for the kids sake that the results are good…but if they’re not, I’ll also be reflecting on how to improve my e-learning pedagogy, not chucking it out the window.

    • http://dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

      That’s the difficulty, isn’t it? Keeping the balance. Good luck! :-)

  • http://kellimcgraw.wordpress.com/ Kelli

    This is just my second year of full time teaching (English), and my year 12 students are about to sit their Higher School Certificate (HSC is the last year of high school in NSW, Australia).I have tried over the past year with them to blend traditional learning with a class blog. Recently I also introduced them to Voicethread for a creative writing workshop. I email a lot of work, and connect the to a range of online sources, youtube videos etc.It sure is difficult, when you spend most of the year up your high horse, complaining about how exams are narrowing the curriculum, when at the end of the day the students are the ones who are most effected by a bad result. But at the end of the day I really DO believe that I am teaching them '21st century' skills and knowledge that are going to pay dividends in the future once their results are long forgotten. I also believe that what I am doing is pedagogically sound – although like yourself I have seen areas where I am slack that need tweaking in future, and like you, mine are discipline and homework! We won't see our results until after Christmas. I'm hoping for the kids sake that the results are good…but if they're not, I'll also be reflecting on how to improve my e-learning pedagogy, not chucking it out the window.

  • http://dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    That's the difficulty, isn't it? Keeping the balance. Good luck! :-)