I was talking to a friend this evening and we were thinking back to when we had been teachers – a completely different world for us than it is today for people in the profession today. I was lucky enough to be able to leave before I was driven crazy by the mountains of paperwork teachers now have to do – much of it, in my opinion, pointless. An old pub friend from Yorkshire used to say ‘You don’t fatten a pig by keep weighing it’, – you don’t help children to learn by keep testing them!
We were much freer in the past – which I guess did mean some teachers were able to get away with not doing all they should, but it also meant most of us could tailor our lessons to our pupils, because every child is different and every class of children is different. Some classes would just be dull, others would be full of personality, others would be very academic, others sporty – it was just random how it happened. I liked all the people i taught except two – one was a nasty bully, the other was very privileged and was spiteful and mean to classmates who weren’t. My favourite class of about thirty was an absolute mixture – the only thing they had in common was great personality. They came from every background, quite poor and relatively affluent, West Indian heritage, Pakistani heritage, Indian and Bangladeshi heritage, the children of teachers, and of parents who had never had jobs – but they were just a most delightful and amazing class.
I’m digressing from what I was going to write about – doorknob lessons. In those days there was a curriculum of course, and there were examinations we had to work to; there were heads of department and heads of faculty who would organise what we taught, but on the whole, in the classroom we teachers were trusted to teach!
However, every so often, for one reason or another I – and many others, would get to the classroom, and as we put our hands on the doorknob, we would would decide what we were going to do in that lesson. It was usually some inspiration which would arrive, and we would throw aside the planned lesson, and launch into something completely different – maybe it was something we had heard on the radio that morning, or had talked about in the staff-room, or had seen/thought of on the way to school, but it would be completely unscripted, unrehearsed and spontaneous.
My friend and I agreed, that thinking back over our long careers, those one-off doorknob lessons were the best, the most successful, the most enjoyable for us and the students, and the most productive. There are no such thing as doorknob lessons now, and I think schools are poorer for it!