Dr Joshua Griffiths reflects on his motivations to become a teacher and how his experiences during RIS Summer Training have helped him to prepare.
So the end of the first week of Researchers in Schools Summer Training is over and the road to becoming a teacher is now far less daunting than it was at this time last week. A significant proportion of the first week has been spent considering what makes a good teacher. This has included sharing anecdotes of our own favourite or not-so-favourite teachers and also how the classroom environment has changed since we went to school.
During the Learning Circles, I described that my favourite teachers at school were those that had an obvious and unrepentant passion for their subject. Not afraid to declare their love for Pythagoras or their obsession with creating light explosives. It is sometimes easy to forget that teachers are only two or three short steps from their younger selves – enthused pupils watching their own teachers.
For several years, I have felt a passion for teaching, taking every opportunity to assist in practical sessions, seminars and workshops while at University. My brother, who is a chef, has spoken of the joy that comes from seeing someone enjoy the food that you have made. I believe that it is this same form of joy which can be found in teaching, the act of passing knowledge onto another and getting them excited about something that you are passionate about yourself. This is something which is undeniably extremely challenging, but that has the possibility to reap a multitude of rewards.
A valuable part of the first week was being encouraged to look at the POLAR3 statistics, outlining the rate of continuation to higher education. In my own home town of Stockport, I was shocked but not completely surprised to find that on either side of the road I lived on as child, there were two distinct areas. On one side, an area which is thought to be less well-off and that recorded less than 20% of children continuing to university and on the other side of the road, in an area which is generally perceived to be better-off, these statistics exceeded 60%, a factor of 3 difference.
What causes this difference is not simple, in fact, as emphasised by the Keynote from Anne Marie-Canning at Kings College London (the Director of Widening Participation) – whole university departments are focused on addressing it. With this in mind, I would be the first to admit that university is not always the right choice for every young person. We would always hope for a normal distribution, irrespective of location and the fact that these two areas so close to one another have such a gulf between them is concerning. It suggests that opportunity is still intrinsically linked to background. I feel that The Brilliant Club exists to counter this notion. It believes that every child from every area of the country, no matter what their background is, should have equal opportunity to aspire to continue on to higher education. Every child should have their future dictated by their passion and not their location.
This is the notion that has been omnipresent among the RIS participants that I have met. They have come from a wide range of backgrounds but all agree on two things, that they love their subject and that they want others to learn to love it too. To borrow an anecdote from Anne Marie-Canning, she told us that her English teacher said that she believed she was the first child who she thought was smarter than herself. I personally cannot wait to say that and I believe that it will not be long until I can.