The girl who broke into lessons

Roger Titcombe's picture

I have the consent of 'Disappointed Idealist' to write an article on my website based on his latest post on leaving the teaching profession.

It is rather long so this is just a taster.

Although anecdotal accounts need to be treated with caution, they can be very powerful in explaining and illuminating issues. This article features one such anecdotal account published on his website by ‘Disappointed Idealist’ in his last article as a teacher. I do hope his site remains accessible as ‘disidealist’ has published some excellent articles.

His piece, entitled ‘11 Years a teacher‘, comprises a frank and illuminating account of a number of experiences and incidents that many teachers will recognise and warm to. This article concerns Number 4, in his list. For the sake of clarity the quotations from his website are in italics, and everything else is my work. I will refer to ‘disidealist’ as DI.

Helen was a “different” child when I began teaching her at the beginning of Year 10 for GCSE history. She was on the school’s SEN register, although there seemed to be a lack of clarity as to whether the issue was autism, or Asperger’s, or both. Her target grade was an “E”, and to be honest, this was optimistic. She liked history because, in her mind, History was essentially the classroom equivalent of watching Horrible Histories – a succession of facts, preferably gory or shocking, to be recounted irrespective of the question in front of her. She would interrupt a lesson on Renaissance medicine with a factoid about Roman emperors, or illustrate a discussion on the Freikorps in Weimar Germany with a list of Henry VIII’s wives and how they died.


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Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 24/07/2016 - 10:55

Not everyone will want to wade through all my links in order to get to the crucial nub of this issue, which is as follows.

I believe in ‘plastic intelligence’. This implies a dynamic interaction between perception and the mind, leading to the enhancement of general cognitive abilities. When a pupil gets absorbed and mentally challenged as was Helen in her GCSE History lessons, then she also gets better at maths and science and every other school subject and later adult cognitive demand that requires rational reasoning, like deciding for or against Brexit.

This is a powerful argument for maintaining subject breadth in the school curriculum for as long as possible and certainly at least up to the age of 16, for pupils of all abilities.

Eclecticism as a quality was greatly valued and apparent in the lives of our great Victorians in diverse fields of human endeavour. It is in need of restoration in our schools. See this article about the great Victorian educationalist Richard Dawes.

The knowledge gained from an eclectic education is important at all ability and attainment levels. Not only do we benefit from well-educated employees and professionals at all levels but even more so from well-educated mothers and fathers.

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